Relinquishment and Choice: Say Yes to One, Let the Other One Ride

“Did you ever have to make up your mind
Pick up on one and leave the other behind
It’s not often easy and not often kind
Did you ever have to make up your mind

Did you ever have to finally decide
Say yes to one and let the other one ride
There’s so many changes and tears you must hide
Did you ever have to finally decide”

~ John Sebastian (1944-)
American songwriter
from the longs (listen), Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind


Fresh from the womb, life before us is almost unbounded potential. We are like an untouched block of granite awaiting the sculptor’s will. How will our lives take shape? Like the blow of a sculptor’s chisel, each day that we live chips away some potential. Each choice we make carves a path from among potential alternative futures. Across the span of our lives, living and choosing transform us from potentiality into actuality.

Yet when faced with a choice from among different alternatives, many of us get stuck. One of the ways in which we get stuck is analysis paralysis which I have discussed elsewhere (“Analysis Paralysis and the Starship Captain Jean Luc Picard”). Here I want to address the difficulty of being unable to relinquish or let go of possibilities.

Some of us want to ‘be all we can be’ in the worst way. It’s not that we are unable to choose. We don’t want to have to choose, for in choosing we would lose the possibilities inherent to the alternatives which we did not choose. We want this and we want that. We want our cake and we want to eat it too. We don’t want to miss out. We hoard our potential. We want it all. We refuse to let go of this or that alternative. In refusing to relinquish possibilities, we are stuck, unable to make a decision.

Refusing to relinquish options reminds me of how you can trap a monkey. Place a juicy piece of fruit behind a cage with very narrowly spaced bars. When a monkey reaches in between the bars and grabs the fruit, the monkey cannot pull out its hand as long as it keeps hold of the fruit. Refusing to let go of the fruit, the monkey then is scooped up by the trapper. Yes, not relinquishing possibilities is a decision of sorts. Yet in so doing, we end up spending our lives caged in a unrealized potential, never having really lived.

Living seems imbued with certain existential, or intrinsic and inescapable attributes of existence, such as: we are alone; the path before us is unknown; we will be faced with choices, and; we are responsible for our decisions and actions. Add to those attributes the drive of life to actualize itself from potentiality to actuality. The seed becomes the majestic redwood tree. The infant becomes the person of distinct, authentic character.

Giving expression to the difference that you are requires relinquishing possibilities for the sake of bringing forth into actuality that authentic difference. So living, your life becomes a creative expression, whereby through choice and agency (see “A Life of Your Choosing“) you chisel away at your block of marble. Your block of marble becomes a work of art.


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