Drive Your Own Car
"You may think that in life, a lot of things happen to you along the way. The truth is, in life, you happen to a lot of things along the way." (Shad Helmstetter)
My oldest daughter will turn 16 in about six weeks, and, like many soon-to-be 16-year-olds, she is excited about the prospect of getting her driver's license. To facilitate this transition, we've been looking into enrolling her in a local driving school. And that reminded me of all those years ago, when I learned to drive.
My driving instructor was a little rough around the edges. We listened to a lot of rock-and-roll while we drove together. Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. Rush. He used colorful language. We liked each other.
One day, while driving on the interstate for the first time, he gave me perhaps the best driving advice I ever received. A car came up really close to my back bumper. I began to accelerate, and my instructor asked me why I was doing that. I told him it was because the car behind me obviously wanted me to go faster. Wanting my full attention, he took control of the car immediately and pulled off to the side of the road. He said, "Look at me. I want you to remember what I'm about to say."
I looked at him wondering what in the world he was about to say that could be THAT important.
"Never let anyone else drive the car for you. You're in charge of this car. Not someone in the backseat. Not someone in the car behind you. You drive how fast you want in the lane you want. You speed up when you want. You slow down when you want. You change lanes when you want -- and when it's safe. Never let anyone else drive the car for you."
Looking back I think this was more than just good advice for driving; this is good advice for living.
People have been arguing about the concept of free will for millennia. Philosophers and psychologists and theologians continue to debate whether or not human beings are free to chart their own course and pursue it, or is all of that mapped out for us by someone else? Who and what is pressing the accelerator, applying the brakes, and turning the steering wheel? Is it me? Is it my biology? Is there some puppet master behind the scenes?
Who is in control -- not only of the big things but the small, everyday, moment-to-moment happenings?
This is an important question, because unless and until you decide that you have a choice -- even if it's some small say in the matter -- a tiny bit of "free will" -- you'll never choose to change. You'll just accept things the way they are. You might complain about them. You might complain quite a bit. But you'll never make a change if you don't feel like you have the power to do so.
I will not join the argument -- at least not here -- at least not now. I'm just going to reject determinism. I believe there is a guiding force in our world that infuses it and each of us with energy and life. I believe that guiding force knows the end from the beginning. I that guiding force is causing certain things to occur. I even believe that guiding force can periodically -- for reasons I do not often understand -- intervene in our world.
I believe that each of us has far more power to choose than we exercise -- particularly in the mundane activities of our everyday lives. And I believe that our choices determine our direction in practically everything we do. Taken together, the sum total of our choices create our success and failures in this life.
Most of what will make today a "good day" or a "bad day" is determined by who we choose to talk to, what we choose to say, how fast or slow we choose to drive, what time we wake up, how easily upset we allow ourselves to become, how quickly we choose to forgive (if we choose to forgive at all), and a host of other decisions that are in our power to make.
Granted, you may think, "Well, it wasn't my choice for my son to stay up too late on the computer, not do his homework, oversleep, and penalize the rest of us by acting like a complete idiot!" This is true. However, you did choose to have this child. Moreover, you continue to choose to keep him. You have some say about this.
Each of us has the right as an individual to make the choices that we want to make for ourselves, and to become the master (or mistress) of our own destiny -- the one and only true driver of our vehicle. No one else has the right to tell you to speed up or slow down or change lanes. Let them do what they want; drive your own car.
Photo Credit: Juan Di Nella