Most think, nay, believe, that at various times life tests us, tests our mettle, trys our resolve, challenges us. Many also believe life offers choices, choices for nearly everything we encounter.  I began to wonder, wonder about who tests whom, what tests what.  Could it be that in our making choices, in choosing from the smorgasbord, are we really the ones doing the testing, that in making our choices we are testing life?

In traveling the path which I’ve always felt to be predefined in some way, be it providence or circumstance, I’ve found life always seems to present choices.  In thinking about choices, and requisite outcomes, I reflected on the oft asked question – would I change anything in my life, would I have made different choices.  It is an interesting question and one which merits consideration.  For me it was always a simple answer, no, I would not have changed anything; I would not have made different decisions, different choices.  But recent reflections gives cause to ask whether it is really all that simple, is there not anything I might change if given the opportunity?

The premise for my well engrained answer to the question is two fold.  First, I’ve always believed it was life that made the decisions, however obtuse that may seem.  The basis for this belief is that circumstance is not always, if ever, of our own making.  The second is my belief that in all circumstances the decisions I’ve made, the choices selected, were based on the best information available at the time, information yielded by life as it may have been at the time.  It is this second factor that opens the door to the question of whether we can actually control outcomes, that we can determine our fate, if in reality those choices challenge life, challenge what it can offer and what we accept.

In the world of agriculture it is generally said that farmers are “victims” of the weather.  The idea being farmers have no control over how much it rains, if it rains or whether some other “act of nature” will come along and destroy their crop.  However, when considering the whole of the agricultural producer community, we find there are those who seem to always lose their crops in times of duress and those who always seem to produce, even in the worst of times.

In thinking about the farmers, those who seem to always find some degree of success when many, perhaps most, find misfortune or failure, common elements exist.  What are these things, what differentiates the successful from the marginal, and the failures?  On the surface all appears the same, the weather, for the most part the seed, the fertilizer and in many cases the land is also the same.  However, while commonality exists, there are differences, differences which reside within timing, planning and, most importantly, within decisions made.

Focusing on the decisions, perhaps the precursor to planning and timing, we see the successful are opportunistic by being prepared, being ready when the timing is right and knowing how to respond to the moment at hand.  When the weather is bad, the successful do not loathe it, but rather prepare for when the weather breaks and affords them the opportunity to act.  In taking this action, in preparing, by making these decisions, are they not controlling their destiny?  Are they not predefining the outcome of their efforts?  Some may say yes, that they are preempting the external by applying themselves to their secular challenge.  Others might say that the mere fact they choose to prepare, rather than loathe, reflects a destiny, a predefined outcome of sorts, that providence endowed them with a certain mindset, an attitude which fosters success.

So then, when we think about how our decisions affect our life does the farmer analogy apply?  Is it really our choices that drive life, or life that dictates our choices?  In the big scheme of things I suspect there is a little of both.   Life designs our paradigm and it is our paradigm that directs our decisions.  I suppose this is presents a bit of a “chicken versus the egg” situation, but if one thinks about it I suspect it is different.  Fundamentally we are” programmed” to react in certain ways, but our exposures are determined on the entry point chosen for us.

So back to the question originally posed I remain in somewhat of a quandary.  On one hand I sense we do test life particularly when we oppose convention.  In many other ways, I think life is responsible for those exposures which determine how we react.  In the end, perhaps it is not a question of whether we test life or life tests us, but rather, in presenting situations to us and from which it can measure our reactions, life tests itself.

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