Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Making Decisions

On what basis does one make decisions? This is, of course, a huge question. We make countless decisions without conscious thought. Major decisions may cause one to give serious consideration to the various presuppositions that affect the process, but many decisions that require some deliberation do not stir the pot of assumed values we all imbibe.

I am still reflecting on the closing question of my previous post: What causes a recent book to be so important that one reads it instead of a proven, and still unread, classic? There are many variations to the issue: Why watch a (likely banal) movie on DVD when you can be reading a classic? Similar contrasts could be produced ad nauseam.

Is it a given that no one should read another novel unless first having read The Brothers Karamazov? Is Augustine a prerequisite for any later theologian? Are contemporary songs in church nothing but distortion from the purity of Gregorian chant (or Bach or whatever one might offer as the ultimate)?

Surely on one level (and a rather basic one, I would contend) is the issue of what I understand as “personhood” — who we each are (genetically and culturally, or “nature” and “nurture”). Using two movie identities as examples, Forrest Gump is not going to make the same self-betterment decisions as Will Hunting (okay, I’m dating my movie awareness). I have also been thinking about a real-life contrast. I had said I was reading The Seven Storey Mountain, and I’m struck with the huge difference between Merton’s life as a child and young adult and my father, who was born only four years after him. Merton had traveled over western Europe and the United States and was educated in a context that was grounded in Latin and the classics as well multi-lingual fluency. My father was raised in a Southern sharecropper’s family and had to quit his little country school when half through his twelfth grade to join the CCCs in order to subsidize his family’s income. Dad is a very intelligent man and has left much of his poor past behind, but who would expect him to read and think like Merton? We each are products of our time, place and family genetics, and that affects the way we make decisions — even what books we read (or if we read at all).

For Christians, this becomes part of the picture of belonging to the Body of Christ. Not everyone has the same opportunities or responsibilities, nor the same calling in the Body. This means, on some level, that we trust the work of the Holy Spirit to motivate some to read Augustine or Aquinas and Dostoevsky while other Christians may focus more on economics or being a great car mechanic. This doesn’t necessarily mean the latter will not read Aquinas and Dostoevsky, but neither does it negate that some people will instead read Louis L’Amour or watch ESPN while others will choose Jane Austen. The options are myriad.

The hope is that Christians make their decisions as unto the Lord (...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God, 1Cor 10:31). The things we read and watch and buy are not ends to themselves. What we take in and what we give out is part of our witness. What I read and watch and buy should be nurturing the life of Jesus that is in me; what I say and do should be an expression of the life of Jesus within me. How often is that a conscious part of our decisions?

No comments:

Site Meter