Finding Direction: Principles of Freedom and Awareness 2.5.1

Some choices and actions are indeed better or worse . . . . Some results are better or worse . . . . Some actions are appropriate means to get the result we want and some are not . . . . Knowing what unconscious desires are influencing us is helpful . . . . Understanding the real consequences of our choices is helpful . . . . Having the will to act and to make a serious effort is necessary . . . . Sometimes we go beyond the possibility of choice and lose the freedom to choose.

Let’s examine an ordinary example of freedom and awareness from real life:  If a student decides that doing well in a class is a good or necessary result, then what actions would follow?  Is cheating on the first test an appropriate concrete action?  The results may be satisfactory if the student is not caught by the teacher or turned in or ostracized by other students.  The conscious desire may be to succeed for the moment without doing any work.  This might seem to be the easiest way.  Perhaps unconsciously the student fears he or she is actually incapable of success.  Perhaps he or she has never succeeded before without cheating.  Maybe the student feels pressures from family or friends and is afraid of wasting their money or letting them down.

However, the student may unwittingly go beyond the possibility of making another choice because suddenly after cheating on the first test, he or she does not have the necessary skills or knowledge to succeed at the next level.  The consequence may be that what seemed easy at first actually turns out to be much harder.  Then, the student must choose to go back and spend the extra time to learn the first skills or information plus the new material, frustrating though that may be, or risk failure on the next test, or cheat yet again.  At the time of the third test, the student is now so far behind that success within the timeframe of the course may be no longer possible.  The possibility of real choice is gone, at least for this course at this time.

Accepting that success in the class is a good goal, where were the turning points?  Choosing a different means to the end right from the beginning, a different concrete action, would probably have been wiser in the long run.  Unfortunately, studying and practicing rather than cheating are not easy.  If the student tries to succeed by his or her own effort, a lower grade may be the result.  Complaints may come from family or friends because the results are not as good as they expected or because the choice of study and practice requires effort that takes time away from competing interests.  In this case the student has to have the will to continue to study and practice, and even to suffer frustration if necessary, because that choice of action will lead to greater skill on the next test, greater chance of success on the third test, and the possibility of final success in reaching the good goal.

Phyllis Ballata

Without Words We Cannot Think

“The smart person solves a problem.  The genius avoids it.”  E.F.Schumacher (1911-1977), Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973)

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One thought on “Living As Though There Is a Tomorrow #33

  1. This happened at Columbia to someone in Caitlin’s class. Unfortunately, their decision to cheat didn’t affect only them but also Caitlin. This person copied Caitlin’s paper and turned it on as his own. Then they were BOTH called before the professor. He was eventually expelled but not before a significant amount of angst on her part.

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