From the Pabs Archives (11)

January 3, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

(Rabs Inc, 01.06.2005)

A colleague once said to me that at every stage of your life, it is of paramount importance that you are making decisions. If you give up making choices out of any number of options, you become paralysed, drowning in a sea of passivity, buffeted by the the tides of chance. I’d only asked him if he was coming for a drink but I was intrigued. Of course the risk is that not all decisions will be the right one but for this thirsty philosopher (he did come for a drink), it was the fact that a decision had been made that was of greatest significance. We might regret the decision to walk to work rather than take the bus as the rain starts but the choice to do it, for whatever reason, is one that is, on a very low level, empowering. I could travel to work in any number of ways but decided to walk. It is a self determined choice out of a number of options. I may have got soaked on my journey but the implicit freedom in the process and my ability to make the decision far outweighs the fact that, in this case, it may not have been the right one. And next time of course, I will take an umbrella.

There was an article in last weeks Observer Travel section about a new phenomenon called ‘experimental travel’ where tourists are invited to dispose of the traditional visitor pursuits of visiting monuments, museums, galleries and other ‘places of interest’ in favour of more mundane areas like industrial estates and suburban sprawls on the periphery of the town that do not always hold the same aesthetic allure as their guidebook counterparts. Whilst this new craze was aimed predominantly at people like its founder, Joel Henry, a frenchman with a huge furry moustache and the founder of the Laboratory for Experimental Tourism, there was something very refreshing and liberating about his decision to visit these places at the expense of other more popular destinations. To many, this would be bad decision making, or indeed madness, but the fact that he made that decision, as absurd as the consequences are, is highly appealing and a fine expression of his own freedom.

There is however a slippery and steep slope on our decision mountain. If we only value decisions for decisions sake we run the risk of toppling into the river of pernicious relativism where anything goes. These foolhardy wanderers make a crucial mistake: ‘I make a decision, therefore the decision is right. As long as I make decisions, the decisions will always be good ones.’ The responsible decision maker is not immune to wrong and bad decisions. Far from it, if anything he is exposing himself more by taking on the challenge. It is this risk factor that gives the process its liberating and empowering quality. It could go wrong, but it’s worth the risk. Furthermore, I am not a prisoner to bad decisions. Next time, I will be more informed and will not make the same bad decision. I will take the umbrella.

The best views from our mountain are from above the sea and the river, where decision making process is valued for its life affirming qualities but where their consequences are scrutinised, both good and bad. To shirk away from, to ignore these decisions is to stagnate. To take them on and engage ensures progress and the view at the top must be far more rewarding and sharp.

And deciding not to make a decision is cheating.

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