Who Writes My Laws?

“No man’s error becomes his own Law; nor obliges him to persist in it.”

Thomas Hobbes

For most of my life, I believed just the opposite.

Any decision I made I was bound to as if it had been carved in stone.  Having once taken a step and made a choice, however mistaken or unwise it proved, I was obliged to continue along that way. My decision couldn’t be undone — not even by me. Why I thought this, I really don’t know, but it was a very real binding and burden to me, and it’s not so long ago that I’ve struggled free of it.

Now here I come across this quote from Thomas Hobbes, the 17th century English philosopher, who in one breath held that the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,”  but in another breath proclaims our basic freedom to make our own decisions, and what’s more, to remake them if we so choose. Four centuries later, I’ve been hard put to catch up with him!

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This entry was posted in Etcetera, Mindfulness, Quotes, Wisdom and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Who Writes My Laws?

  1. Pseu says:

    “it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind” – my Pa used to say that about Ma. So I believed it 🙂

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  2. Rebekah says:

    Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m getting this but I believe it’s something about that you can’t go back … Life’s not like a video that you can rewind, erase and play over. At least I haven’t been able to do it … the choices I’ve made have often stuck with me.

    How did you do it … to free yourself of it?!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      It’s complex, Rebekah. Of course you can’t rewind life, and choices have consequences.
      What I take Hobbes to mean, and how I understand it in my own life, is can I let go of a mistaken choice? Can I switch courses? Am I stuck with continuing down the road a decision has led me, or can I step off (not back, but off) and try another road?
      For a long time I thought I was stuck with continuing something that I came to know was a mistake. (In financial market terms, throwing good money after bad.) Or then I learned slowly to consider, could I cut my losses? The losses are real; but do I have to keep throwing my remaining money after them — And eventually I came to the conclusion, No, I do not.

      As for how I got to a place of more freedom — lots of therapy! (plus reading, plus reflection, plus meditation, plus wonderful people in my life). And it isn’t once for all (almost nothing is): it’s making these choices for freedom again and again, whenever the choice points arise.

      Here endeth the sermon? I hope it’s helpful and not too boring!

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      • Rebekah Json says:

        Yes, that’s what I figured. I’ve freed myself of something important … changed course and for that I’m happy. There are other issues … and they weren’t even choices of my own to start with — however, I guess I have a choice about how to feel about it. I’ve been in therapy, but that was long time ago and way too short period of time. And life goes on…

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      • Rebekah Json says:

        …and that’s the pivotal point here — we’re alright!

        I may not be the best at anything, but I guess I’m good enough. That should have been the title of my blog … as a reminder: «I’m good enough» LOL

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  3. mercy says:

    I think you have to deal with the consequences of your decision but after that you do have 2nd chances is what he means.You decide on a career, a spouse, a country and you have to live with it – unwinding or stepping off if the consequences are difficult to accept comes at a cost, so the extremme version of his statemment might lead you to an existential living in the moment unconnnnected to your past actions – easy to say but not a life I would like – best to try to make optimal choices as a rule and use his philosphy for exceptional errors – and be kind to yourself on those errors if it was optimal at the time.

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  4. Stef says:

    I used to be that way as well – once I made a decision, that was IT! Changing an opinion just couldn’t be done. Why? I have no idea. I think it’s because I didn’t want to be a “quitter”, or be seen as “wishy-washy” or “indecisive” (all *terrible* things in my home growing up…).

    But I’m learning that life is gray – and that what is called for in one situation is inappropriate in another. And so, now I’m learning how to be truly wise – which involves changing from time to time.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      The shades of gray thing —
      The necessity of change —
      We DO learn something as we go along!
      (And some really important “somethings” they are, too. Funny, isn’t it, how we acquire such a firm conviction that we aren’t allowed to change — and we don’t even know where or why we got it. Not for sure, at any rate.)

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    • mercy says:

      Yep stiill in India, Judy – returning tonight – wedding was great – very traditional orthodox syrian christian – using my blackberry to comment – keys keep jumping.
      And Stef, changing oooopinonns is aa goood tthinng [this is an example of Mercy’s Blackberry at work] – it reflects growth in your thinking – There’s always 2 sides to everyy issue and your ability to see the 2nd side is how you want to change your opinion and that’s always good – But once we act on an opinion whether informed or otherwise, it’s difficult to hop off and live as if you hadn’t taken that action. – I feel only the gravest fallout warrants “unwinding” an acton especially if your actions and their unwinding affect others’ lives adversely – Any effort to maximise our comfort at the expense of others’ discommfort would have an ethical implication.

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      • Touch2Touch says:

        I think both Stef and i would certainly agree. We’re not talking about undoing things, but of changing directions when further experience indicates unwisdom or error. Not arbitrary, not frivolous, not walking away —- And I know I’m not talking necessarily about big things like divorce would be, things like that. I was posting about unfreedom even in small things!
        I was intending black/white thinking (Stef picked up on that right away, so I can be clearer now) — but about recognizing shades of gray. Fear of change versus necessities and benefits of change. It’s a balancing act, as I suspect almost all of life is a balancing act.

        Of course this is a complicated issue, and would take essays really to get into fully!
        Meanwhile, fly well, come home safe, welcome back, Namaste!!!!!

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      • mercy says:

        Yes I also figured you were talking of smaller decisions but I just used the big decisions for illustrative purposes, to bring the issues into greater relief.
        I constantly come upon similar situations at work where I feel trapped by public stands I’ve taken on various issues or people and find that even tho I’ve changed my mind and heart aboout it people may not feel I’ve changed.
        Feel like the tree that falls in the forest soundlessly – without an audience that acknowledges having heard the fall, can you say the tree really fell?

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  5. Touch2Touch says:

    That’s the balance, yes, Mercy. You deal with consequences, but you’re not stuck continuing on that same mistaken course.
    We all do the best we can. In a way it’s kind of tragic, because mostly we try to do the RIGHT, GOOD thing. Most people, I do believe that. It’s just that we’re near-sighted, or affected by emotions we’re unaware of, or have insufficient information — at any rate, we do do the best we can. Tragedy is, it’s often not good enough.
    So we need — like the Fred Astaire song — to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.
    (BTW, are you still in India at the wedding? I thought you might be using another language’s keyboard.)

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  6. meercy says:

    Yep stiill in india – returnning toonight. – wedding was great – very traditional orthodox syrian christIan – using my blaackbberry to. Comment – keys keep jumpinng

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  7. Pauline says:

    I’ve always liked the saying: You can’t get different results by doing the same thing over and over.

    The older I get, the more I see I had choices all along – when I was younger the options weren’t so clear. I love the Cat Stevens tune where he says “…and you can make it undo…” Even though I’ve never figured out how, I like thinking it’s possible…

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      “You can’t get different results by doing the same thing over and over.”
      Anyone with any length of acquaintance with therapy recognizes that coming to understand the truth of that is a major factor and goal —- Big time!

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