What is your personal philosophy? How do you choose to live your life? Indeed, do you choose it at all? Or do things just “happen” to you? In truth, no creature shapes their environment as much as a human, and just look at what we’ve done with it – a polluted world, with hundreds species dying out before our eyes. I believe that we need to take a different view; we need to learn to accept external forces, instead of seeing them as an enemy.
I have a personal philosophy which I would like to share with you. It is reflected in the title of this essay, and it has two key aspects.
The first is to accept the price. We don’t choose our context, not really. Certainly, you can make choices, but there are greater forces at work all around us. 9/11 was a potent reminder of how a sudden catastrophe can change our world. And 9/11s happen every day, for somebody. Even those of us who are fortunate enough not to live in a warzone, not to be perennially hungry, not to fear violent death, even we are subject to random catastrophe. (And if you happen to live in a destroyed city, surrounded by disease and poverty, are you less of a “go getter” than some Wall Street hero?)
Perhaps a distant ripple in the stock exchange will make you unemployed today. Maybe a foolish driver will cut in on you and change your life forever. Or maybe something far smaller will happen – an irritation, a distraction, something which can divert you from the state of serenity you would wish to achieve.
We are the most controlling of creatures. As soon as we wake up, we plan our day, and any deviation from the plan causes irritation, anger, annoyance. It makes our blood pressure rise.
“Accepting the price” means just that – accept that something has happened. Really accept it – don’t push against it, or rant and rave – simply accept. Because by accepting, you can begin to adapt. This isn’t easy, and takes practice, but it is essential to a calm state of mind.
The second element is to “choose the method of payment”. We can pay in so many currencies – with time, or money, or pride, or integrity, or honour, or pain, or embarrassment, or shame . . . the list goes on. When I respond angrily, aggressively, I am paying with my honour – I dishonour myself when I behave like this. Perhaps I also pay in embarrassment, and in the quality of my relationships. When a parking fine arrives through the post I can rant and rave about it, and then pay the fine (so that’s paying with blood pressure + cash), or I can smile and pay the fine (just paying with cash).
How we pay is the way we really exercise control. If I want something, I can work to earn the money to pay for it (time + effort + cash), or I can shoplift (honour + shame + risk of punishment). If I drop litter, in which currency am I paying? When I yell at the children, what is this costing me? (and them.)
When we begin to think in terms of the method of payment, we can begin to make decisions about what we truly value. When we see a choice as being between money and honour, it makes it far easier to pay up cheerfully. And we can take some pride in our sense of honour, and integrity. We can take pride in the times when we have chosen to work hard rather than take some other route. In essence, choosing the method of payment is the only true freedom we possess.