In early May I bought a new car (pictured.) It is a 2011 Jetta SportsWagen TDI Diesel. The seats are “leatherette” (read: vinyl, not a song by Grace Jones) in a neutral beige. The color is apparently the choice of manufacturers this season – a rich blue. The mileage is comparable to my previous car, a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid, for highway. Significantly less for city and mixed driving. It has air conditioning, heated seats, integrated navigation, blue-tooth capability, and satellite radio.
The amount of consternation this decision caused was likely a significant annoyance to my gf, my friends, and the auto broker for most of April. My opinion flipped and flopped faster than an old money Republican politician at a Tea Party convention. This is not how I usually make decisions – in the past, I would simply review the data and decide. For particularly troublesome decisions I would create a table with weighting criteria and sum my way to the solution. Whatever corresponded to the cell that satisfied (max Ai:An) was the decision and I would not consider it again. No tossing, no turning. Textbook Myers-Briggs ENTJ “more comfortable after making a decision.”
When friends asked me about my new found ambivalence I claimed no knowledge of its origin. Today I took a short stroll after work and realized that’s simply not true. I know. Of course I know.
In 2009, my world turned upside down. I’ll spare you the details but my place in the world changed. Or, I should say, I could no longer believe the narrative my mind created about the world and my place in that narrative. My perception changed.
Having grown up in a Christian tradition and well versed in the New Testament, these words came to me when I reflected on this change: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (That’s 1 Corinthians 13:12 for those keeping score at home.)
My life is now informed by my Buddhist practice. What comes to minds are Ajahn Chah’s three simple words: annica, dukkha, anatta (impermanence, suffering, no self.)
What does either have to do with making decisions – or how are they related to Great Life Changing Event (GLCE) of 2009? Reality. Seeing reality. The fact that a GLCE took place in 2009 meant I was not present to what was happening in life. There was no switch which was flipped, no lightning bolt from the sky. No drunk driver crashing into the old Honda head on, no cancer diagnosis after a routine physical. Had I been paying attention, I would have seen conditions changing, deteriorating. I actively ignored the details and did not acknowledge the times the hair stood up on the back of my neck, the moments when a sense of “this is not right” overwhelmed me.
As I walked among the plants turning to seed in the August heat I realized my ambivalence in decision making was borne out of no longer trusting my judgment. If I didn’t see that the bright light at the end of the tunnel was in fact the proverbial train coming my way, how could I trust myself with a five figure purchase?
LOGIC FAIL. This is a fallacy; there was no issue with my judgment. The issue was noticing. Looking at things plainly, not through a glass darkly. Being open to the nature of reality – it’s impermanence, its suffering, and the fact that there is no immutable unchanging Thing (or Self.)
Perhaps the following assumption is premature but I’m sure life will offer an opportunity to test it soon: I suspect I may return to my prior decision making style. Even if I don’t, at least I’ll be aware I haven’t.