Vital, Arbitrary Decisions
© 8 Nov 2011 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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Of getting dressed, being stressed, and commandments.


Last week Wm commented on one of my posts about some of the virtues of commandments not being suggestions. I’ve had a similar topic on my ever-growing list of posts-not-yet-written for several months now, and that comment spurred me to action.

I feel pretty confident this post is poorly written, and may come back and re-write it at some point.


When I was attending BYU I would frequently collect a few friends and go for a walk through Provo. We would come to an intersection on these walks and I would ask, “‍which way shall we go?‍” Sometimes this question would bring the walk to a halt, as no direction seemed sufficiently preferable to select. And thus I learned to put it differently: “‍shall we turn left here?‍”

While I was a full-time proselytizer I would sometimes be asked why we worshiped on Sunday instead of another day of the week. I knew of two fine good answers 1: see history, Christ’s resurrection, etc.
2: ’tis the most-sabbath-like day in our country’s culture.
to this question but found the most helpful was not an answer at all: “‍If the day was left to our own discretion it would be hard to fellowship together, hard to keep from letting it slide now and again, and tempting to make it a low priority. God helped us out and picked a day. We happen to call the day he picked ‘‍Sunday‍’.‍” This begged the question asked (“‍why Sunday‍”) but was more practical than a history lesson.

Sometimes when dining with others at a restaurant I find that, to obtain food in a timely manner, it helps to suggest arbitrary limitations on the menu selections such as “‍you either want lamb curry, a bacon cheeseburger, or a Waldorf salad.‍” The hundred-item menus can be overwhelming for some diners.

stress In a recent conversation with a friend fraught with indecision, she said to me “‍I’m afraid if I choose that I’ll cut off my options later.‍” I found myself saying, which I had not thought before but rather like now, “‍The only way to keep all paths open is to never leave the intersection.‍”

Make Mistakes, and Make them Now

In my life I’ve found great strength in a very simple adage:

Be doing.
Henry David Thoreau put it differently in Walden:
As if we could kill time without injuring eternity.
Yogi Berra said it also:
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Or, in the oft-quoted words of Spencer W. Kimball,
Do It Now.

What people don’t bother saying when they urge action in these ways is that they are urging making mistakes as well. To do it now means, implicitly, to do it before you are confident that it is the best thing to do. And, unless you are a miraculous being, that means doing a fair amount of stuff you oughtn’t have done.

I take three comforts in making mistakes early and often. First, I have observed that no one of my acquaintance appears to be making more accidental wrong choices than right ones, so I expect more of my actions point heavenward than hellward unless I choose hell. Second, there are people I trust (like God, for example) who have thought through a variety of actions and left me a wealth of commandments, so very often I actually know the right thing to do a priori. And a most important third, Christ fixes mistakes. There are lots of mortals who fix and forgive mistakes too, but that’s just a silver lining. He’s really good at it, and He’s already paid the cost of fixing them in full.

From the trivial to the vital, make choices. Make them early, even in advance where possible, giving yourself little “‍commandments‍” to simplify life. Strew the path you tread with mistakes, but walk that path right rapidly. ’Tis the best way.

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