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The Crucial Decision

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The Crucial Decision

Either-Or People

By Johann Christoph Arnold - Excerpted from Escape Routes. Available FREE in e-book format.

Fulfillment, happiness, peace, freedom, justice - it doesn't matter which words you use to imagine heaven. What's essential is to start on our way there. Everyone knows loneliness, woundedness, and confusion, and dealing with them is often an arduous, complex process. Faced with this daunting challenge, it can even be tempting to abandon our desire for heaven and to content ourselves instead by trying to make do with the hand we've been dealt.

Such resignation eventually leads to despair. Escaping from life's hells is not a matter of willpower and moral resolutions. Real transformation has nothing to do with following a given series of steps-as if we could be reborn following a how-to manual. Far from it: we will find the way out immediately, once we realize that today is the only day that matters.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky speaks through a character who, as he lies dying, comforts his mother by reminding her, "One day is enough for a man to know all happiness."  If that is really so-that what we do today has power to justify our whole life-the essential thing is to stop wasting our time, and to make a choice today, between hell and heaven. It is impossible to pitch our tent in both camps. As Jesus said, we cannot serve two masters. Either we will love the one and hate the other, or hate the one and love the other.

Life has a way of washing us to one side of the stream, even when we think we're successfully navigating the middle. That means we must take action by choosing which side we want. It's a decision we will need to renew, but as long as we do that, we will remain either-or people: men and women who are neither infallible nor perfect, but who, because of our conviction, can never be faulted for indifference. Weariness and weakness will often overtake us, but we will not be defeated, because we know every day offers us new liberation, new heart-to-heart encounters, and new opportunities to love. As Walt Whitman put it in Leaves of Grass:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God...

Will we choose to love, or not? Everything else pales beside this crucial question.

More by Johann Christoph Arnold

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Last updated: 08/15/08

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