take a breath,
speak a word,
make a choice,
Sunday March 8, 2009
Life is a painting by pointillist Georges Seurat, it may seem from a distance as a continuous pattern, but it is composed of tiny moments, an accretion of thousands of minute choices. Although every life has a few moments when we consciously make big decisions that alter our trajectories, more often our paths are directed by the small everyday choices that we make. It is only in retrospect that we realize that we have, in fact, chosen one "fork" over another.
One of my favorite movies Sliding Doors (1998), starring Gwyneth Paltrow, takes a fraction of a second, the time it takes to decide to leap forward before the subway door closes or stay put and take the next train, to trace two separate paths for a young woman. In real life, we can never know what our path would have been like if we chose differently, acted differently. This is true whether the moment of choice and branching is obvious to us (Shall I take this job? Say "yes" to this man?) or seemingly inconsequential and routine (Shall I hit the snooze bar again? Shall I stop and speak or hurry on my way?).
Our lives become what they are as a result of that multitude of daily actions, each one takes us along one of the forks of possibility rather than another.
Painting by Georges Seurat, Seascape at Port-en-Bessin, Normandy, 1888, Image from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the W. Averell Harriman Foundation in memory of Marie N. Harriman 1972.9.21