As has happened many times over in my life, one day in my early 20’s I was having an existential crisis for one reason or another. It is not as if anything particularly terrible had happened on this specific day, but, once again, my inner world was flipped on its head in search for meaning in the midst of confusion. In fact, this was such a regular occurrence, for so many years, that I do not even recall what happened this particular time. What I do remember is a conversation I had with my friend and spiritual mentor of twenty plus years.
I remember telling him what was going on and all of the anxiety I had about the situation at hand. In my early 20’s we had a lot of these conversations. For better or worse, my imagination has always been more powerful than my ability to contain it. When it is channeled in a positive direction, I am creative, inventive, and able to solve problems others have difficulty seeing. When it is out of control, it overwhelms me with confusion, frustration, and even paralyzing despair. Whatever this event was, I remember finding myself headed down the latter path and trying to stop it before it overwhelmed me.
My friend and I sat and talked. I laid out my conundrum. I was stuck on some interpersonal problem and I could not figure out what to do. Faced with two choices, both of seemingly equal moral value, I did not know what the correct next move was. Being given the choice between right and wrong, the decision would have been easy because I have a very strong, unforgiving conscience. This choice, unfortunately, was not so clear and I feared a negative outcome if I chose poorly. After explaining the situation to my friend, he agreed that there was no clear right or wrong path. Finally, I said, “I have weighed all of the options and I am at a loss. I do not know what I am supposed to do.” “It seems to me,” he replied, “that what you are supposed to do is to make a decision.”
-Robert Van Valkenburgh is a practitioner of Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Kogen Dojo