If you had a car that could only turn one way, would you say that it is free?

The philosopher is Nature’s pilot. And there you have our difference: to be in hell is to drift: to be in heaven is to steer.

~George Bernard Shaw

The real issue in life is choice. If you had a car that could only turn one way, would you say that it is free? If it ran around crashing into things, denting its fenders and wasting all its fuel, would you shrug and say, “That’s the automotive nature. That’s my car’s mode of self-expression?”

~Eknath Easwaran

 

What I like most about these lines from Easwaran is that it quickly exposes the my absurdity in trying to defend myself by appealing to my inherent “nature”. For the automobile described above I could only conclude that it has a problem, that it is malfunctioning. The same must apply to me, too, if I go around acting out compulsively.

The big compulsions—worry, anger, selfishness—can cause real grief. For me, it’s much more practical to start chipping away at my compulsiveness by focusing on smaller things. For example, with my taste buds.

My family, it could be said, naturally crave salty foods. That’s certainly the conclusion of my brother-in-law: pickles, olives, roasted peanuts, to name a few, are all highly-prized by the Lettners. So I could surely try to get away with downing a bowl of salted popcorn every Friday night by appealing to my “nature”. But, since I now know “nature” is a euphemism for compulsion, I would only be guilty of eating compulsively.

So for practicing, I skip the popcorn at the movies when Thul and I go together, I pass by pickles at the supermarket without a second look, and if I make a salad I put only a few olives on it for garnish. All of these are just little things, but each choice exercises my willpower just a bit more making it easier to call upon this willpower when the really important choices come along.

Thus, acting out of “nature” is simply acting compulsively, but each small choice makes it that much easier to for me to rid myself of my compulsiveness altogether.

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About Graham Lettner

My wife and I recently moved from Zambia back home to Alberta. I'm lucky to have been asked to be a guest blogger for the Localize Project. I love writing stories, and when the subject is food -- something that connects us to the planet and to each other -- the stories are endless.
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