Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Choose life

In Deuteronomy 30:19, God says we can choose life or death but advises that we choose life.  There is the famous Hebrew toast "L'Chaim!" to life and its riches.  However, if we are better off choosing life, I wonder why the Almighty gave us a choice.  Why not just set us on the path of life with no chance of deviating or going astray?

I know that the subject of god is related to infinities and the limits of our understanding, not to mention memory, patience, emotionality/arousal, and many other aspects of being human.  Still I wonder why we might be designed so that we are capable of going astray.

The subject of human perfectibility is a difficult one that stretches way back in philosophy.  If we tamper with our DNA and our medical procedures, aren't we fooling with nature?  Do we have the right to do that?  Do we really have the power to do that successfully without making our lives worse?  Is it arrogance to try to improve our lives?  Is such an attempt trepassing where we have no business going?  Personally, I don't think trying to be better is messing with God's plan but I can see that humans do make poor and even nasty and despicable choices at times.

The author Dorothy Sayers wrote some mystery stories, including those features the hero Lord Peter Wimsey.  At one point in her life, she felt she had some insight into what being God must be like.  She thought her experience creating characters and shaping their lives must be a little like being the Creator.  She wrote "The Mind of the Maker" about her ideas.

There are times with our great grandchildren that remind me of the offer God made.  We can choose what we want but he recommends choosing life.  Similarly, we can offer a child American cheese or brie.  We might recommend the brie as the better choice in the long run and we might hope that the child's palate and maturity will lead to better things, not worse ones.  Maybe we need an ability to make a choice throughout our lives and that ability is fundamental to being able to live.  Still, we can make better choices and worse ones.

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