Everything you now do is something you have chosen to do. Some people don’t want to believe that. But if you’re over age twenty-one your life is what you’re making of it. To change your life you need to change your priorities.
If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning.
My will shall shape the future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man’s doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny.
We all create the person we become by our choices as we go through life. In a real sense by the time we are adults we are the sum total of the choices we have made.
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
We can learn from history how past generations thought and acted, how they responded to the demands of their time and how they solved their problems. We can learn by analogy, not by example, for our circumstances will always be different than theirs were. The main thing history can teach us is that human actions have consequences and that certain choices, once made, cannot be undone. They foreclose the possibility of making other choices and thus they determine future events.
Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species — man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.
How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.
Abraham Lincoln did not go to Gettysburg having commissioned a poll to find out what would sell in Gettysburg. There were no people with percentages for him, cautioning him about this group or that group or what they found in exit polls a year earlier. When will we have the courage of Lincoln?
I am not and never will be perfect. I am not always as honest, respectful, responsible, fair or as kind as I should be. All I can do is what I should do: strive every day, with every decision to be the best person I can be. I don’t expect to be perfect but I know I can be better.
Transformation is not five minutes from now; it’s a present activity. In this moment you can make a different choice, and it’s these small choices and successes that build up over time to help cultivate a healthy self-image and self esteem.
Let each one of us leave every other kind of knowledge and seek and follow one thing only, if peradventure he may be able to learn and find some one who will make him able to learn and discern between good and evil, and so to choose always and everywhere the better life as he has opportunity.
By the choices and acts of our lives, we create the person that we are and the faces that we wear. By the choices and acts of our lives we give to the world wherein our lives are lived, hoping that our neighbors will find our contributions to be of worth, and hoping that the world will be a little more gracious for our time in it.
One ship sails East, And another West, By the self-same winds that blow, Tis the set of the sails And not the gales, That tells the way we go. Like the winds of the sea Are the waves of time, As we journey along through life, Tis the set of the soul, That determines the goal, And not the calm or the strife.