I’m very pleased to introduce a guest post! Thank you, Gene, for this lovely piece.
‘New chapter‘, ‘new beginning’, ‘a fresh start’ – there are many connotations and ways of saying that we are moving on and starting a new life.
It may be viewed as being necessary, healthy, invigorating, cathartic or even frightening when someone decides that the time has come to open a new chapter in their lives. Sometimes though the decision may have been taken out of their hands and events may speed their decision or aid in its momentum.
We may all be tethered to our present way of life by a series of thin threads representing our different relationships and connections and these many threads secure us in place and help to keep the equilibrium, but what happens if these threads begin to snap…
Imagine if you will a hot air balloon, tethered to the ground by a series of ropes, as the pilot fills the balloon with hot air the balloon and its basket will rise from the ground but they will only be able to go so far then the ropes will tighten and subsequently keep the balloon and basket fixed in place, holding them steady.
What happens though if one of the ropes is weakened and then snaps? Maybe nothing, the other ropes will take up the extra strain and keep the balloon fixed in place. But, what then happens if another rope snaps increasing the strain even more, then another rope snaps, then another? There will, eventually, come a point when too many ropes have snapped and the strain on the other remaining ropes becomes unbearable, they will reach a breaking point and snap, the balloon will break free and rise into the air whether the pilot wants it to or not.
The ropes tethering the hot air balloon may be a metaphor for all of the relationships and connections, the threads which are holding people securely to their present lives. But as with the hot air balloon, relationships break down, connections are severed and threads are snapped resulting in more pressure and strain being placed on other relationships.
People may well be able to hold on and continue down their present path, continue with their everyday lives up to a point, but when too many threads are snapped, too many relationships break down they may feel that there is no other choice but to break free, take off and find a new path to travel, a new life to live.
Everyone is different, it may take only one relationship to break down, one thread to snap for one person to seek a change of direction, whilst others may be more resilient and it would require more relationships to break down, more threads to snap to warrant seeking a new path to travel. I say resilience, but it may well be fear and indecision holding people back, restricting their free will, their freedom of choice.
French philosopher Jean Buridan proffered the concept of free will, indecision and fear in the paradox of Buridan’s Ass or Buridan’s Donkey as it is sometimes called. This paradox puts forward a situation where an equally thirsty and hungry donkey is placed midway between a bucket of water and a bale of hay. The paradox assumes that the donkey will go to whichever is closer, but because the water and hay are an equal distance away the donkey is riven with indecision and dies of both thirst and hunger.
This may be a reworking of the Aristotle paradox where an equally thirsty and hungry man is placed equidistant between water and food with his indecision of which way to go resulting in the same outcome.
For many people to be able to engage their free will, their freedom of choice they have to be able to see a distinct or visible advantage in choosing one path over another, a new life over their old life.
In many cases, as a result of being unable to see what is around the corner, around the many twists and turns along a new path they are struck with fear and indecision and as with Buridan’s Donkey they do not know which way to choose. Ultimately fear takes over and quashes their free will, their decision-making ability and maybe without even realising it they will continue down the same path, continue with their same lives. This is not conducive to their physical and mental health or their emotional and spiritual well-being.
Fear will not go away and nor should people want it to, they must harness it and make it work for them. Fear can shackle people, hold them in place, stop them from moving forward but only if they allow it to.
Many people are fearful of starting a new life, of travelling a new path and consequently they stay put. They may view not opening a new chapter in their lives as the correct decision but quite often, as time passes, self-doubt slowly starts to creep in and they once again question their decisions, was it wrong to not move on and start afresh?
Throughout a person’s formative years they are constantly warned about making mistakes, of making the wrong decision and as they grow these warnings may make them fearful and ultimately restrict their decision-making ability and freedom of choice. Instead, though people should be encouraged to harness their fears, make decisions, and make mistakes. Making mistakes help people learn and grow, making mistakes will enable them to flourish and move forward.
Maybe there are no wrong decisions, no wrong choices, no wrong paths. In the end no matter what people decide to do, what their choices are they will always have new rich experiences, meet new fascinating people, learn new skills and, of course, make mistakes.
Harness the fear and take responsibility. Don’t be like Buridan’s Donkey, make a decision, choose a path, and enjoy the ride. Maybe, just maybe, there are no wrong decisions, just new opportunities.
I love to hear different takes on themes I’ve covered. Please share your own thoughts in the comments (or in a guest post – contact me here).