Imagine this: Whole of the Earth is about to be flooded (or as Douglas Adams envisaged the earth is about to be demolished to make way for the intergalactic highway!!) and the rescue spaceship has arrived to transport you to another planet. You are allowed to take just one of your possesions with you - What would you take? You are allowed to take one person along. Who would you choose?
Questions like this are so handy to liven up a party or a rainy afternoon. Some of the replies are revealing, some sentimental, and some plain funny as you can always laugh about a hypothetical situation.
In reality,the process of life itself is nothing but a series of choices and living out their results and there is nothing "hypothetical" about it. We make them every step of the way, all the way. Some are conscious choices and others reflexive rooted in social and biological conditioning.And sometimes we are so blinded by this conditioning that we do not even see the choices and we let our situation take control and just drift along and say "I did not have a choice". But the fact is that there is never a situation without a choice in this life. There may be two equally difficult choices (like the proverbial frying pan and the fire) but there is always a choice.

There are moments like the question I started with when you are faced with such a limited choice that it seems like no choice at all. Just imagine you are being offered the choice to jump on a spaceboat and escape to safety, to an alien place leaving everything that has defined your life so far and without the knowledge of what awaits you there. Can you choose one , just one thing or person to take along which would make you feel comfortable "out there"?

And yet in the course of our lives, we make choices of equal significance on which our very survival and the course of our life depends, without even knowing that they are "life defining".We have been sent here with a definite deadline ( pun unintended), the only certainty being "death." Yet we do not live with with the urgency that it demands not do we make our choices with the seriousness they deserve. Some of us come here,chill out,have a party and leave.We say " why take life so seriously? Enjoy while it lasts for in the long run we are all dead!". This is still a "choice" we have made. Others grope around undecided and leave. Yet others live out choices made for them by some one else.And then there are those few, who live every moment with the seriousness and significance it deserves. I do not know if consumption decides the difference between living and existing or consciousness but I believe there is no single "good" or "correct" way that someone else can dictate - It all finally boils down to one's own choice. And therein lies the whole value of life.

Abhilash has written a brilliant post on a related issue here.
Ram,as I write this I am smiling in anticipation of your reaction which is bound to raise related issues and a lively debate as you have always done in the past on questions relating to philosophy and politics.

Anyway coming back to the original question, my choice would be that I'd refuse to hop on to that boat. I have no desire to start my life anywhere else that this wonderful earth leaving behind everyone who form my "life" for me. I shall perish with everything that goes with this earth.
24 Responses
  1. Hi from NYC :)

  2. Akila Says:

    pretty much sums up a lot of feelings i have /am going thru!!!!

    if you dont mind ppl writing things which spell like" whatz, thatz. 2..." etc drop in a line at

    (how cheap can i get by promoting my own blog?;)! but i guess itz okie!!!)

  3. Ram Says:

    Usha, Thanks for the special mention though, honstly, I doubt whether I merit it!

    In my case, the exercise (rather lapsation) of choices happens through sheer inertia born out of my outrageous slothfulness--not to be mistaken for "masterly passivity" of the PVN kinds.

    And, yes--I totally identify with your idea about treating oneself as but a part and parcel of the entire package of acquaintances and associations, without trying to assign priorities. Though, unlike you, I'm almost always a mere bystander to the events that unfold before me--"maine zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya", as the old song goes.

    As for the "takeaways" from my life, please recall my earlier post on Ilayaraja's point about not wanting to leave footprints on the sands of time. And, let me sign off with a quote from, (who else but) Swami Desikan:

    "Naasti pitraarjitam kinchinna mayaa kinchidaarjitam. Asti me hasti shailaagre vastu paitaamaham dhanam"

    "My father hasn't bequeathed me any treasure, nor have I created any wealth myself; (However) My grandfather (=Forefather=Lord Brahma) has left for me a thing (an eternal flame of knowledge) at the peak of Hastigiri (= in the Sri Varadarajaswamy temple, Kanchi), which is most precious to me.

  4. Shashi Iyer Says:

    sorry, but, was that a hard decision to take? because, even though I claim to be in love with life, as it is, for me it'd be very difficult to accept not-living, although "take what" is a difficult nut to crack. but, would I be wrong if I were to say that we're living to unearth just that answer?

    an excellent post.

  5. Mahadevan Says:

    "We do not live with the urgency that it demands, nor do we make our choice with the seriousness it deserves" - fine observation conveyed excellently. I agree with you that there is no situation where we are left without a choice. Exercising the choice may produce a palatable result or not.
    I just cannot resist quoting Dr.Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan " Our life is a mixture of necessity and freedom, chance and choice". This theme needs to be developed.

  6. A.R.Malik Says:

    Ush, 2 things come to mind. 1stly, on the topic of hypothetical questions that force u to peer closely into the life we seemingly drift along with, thtere's the excellent "Book of Questions". It has similar queries with no "right" or 'wrong" answers.

    Secondly...and I know you're going to curse me roundly for lazing off again in gavor of quoting someone else...its Richard Bach (!!!)- that mushy apologist of a writer, who put it brilliantly in "One"- the issue of choices. Something to the effect of having arrived at old age and suddenly realizing that every single choice mattered, all along the way, and you only ever realize it when its too late.

    es, we do make choices every moment of the day, without even realizing the import. Hence Castaneda's stress on paying attanetion to every tricial thing one does. Ditto, Zen:- "when you're standing, stand; when you're sitting, sit. Above all, don't stumble!"

    The key word, I suppose, is ATTENTION.

  7. Usha Says:

    Alex: Hi to you too!

    Akhila: Love it when someone says: "I know what it is like!" you made my day!.
    Don't mind - well, we both know somwonw who minds such spellings, don't we??
    Been there , done that!No self promotion..Quite liked the posts.

    Ram: Of course you merit it. You know how good it feesl when someone takes your rants seriously and actually makes an effort to counter or expand on it?
    In the end that is all we take away with us - knowledge and may be goodwill although I wonder what we do with it "after".

    Sashi: It is a very difficult choice to make and I agree Life's purpose seems to be to unearth that!

    Mahadevan: yet another excellent quote - thank you. Perhaps the other three have a bearing on why we make a certain choice at a certain point.

    Abhilash:I know!!can you imagine how terrible it is to realise so late that every choice actually "mattered" and we could have paid life alittle more "attention'?

  8. Pradeep Nair Says:

    There is no life without choices. And, the best society is one which offers choices to its citizens. Choices are made depending upon the time and occasion. It's never to be regreted, but celebrated. We in India must be thankful for we have lots and lots of choices -- in whatever field it be.

  9. Unknown Says:

    hey usha,
    that's an interesting question to put up.
    frankly i would not be able answer that until I face it in real.
    if you ask me to give an answer offhand, i will probably be able to take both choices and give you equally convincing reasons for both.
    am i going thro' the-quarter-life-crisis or something????...hehehe.
    a nice food-for-thought post.

  10. Unknown Says: topped the french exam is it? Congrats.
    Now that gives me some motivation to study.

    so when are you treating?

  11. Vinesh Says:

    I'm always stuck when I have to make such decisions :-(

    Maybe when we're faced with the situation, we will naturally know what to take...

  12. Usha Says:

    Pradeep, when people live under regimes that take away their choices. I think they take away their most basic right in life. When some old people used to talk nostalgically about the quality of things and the administrative efficiency under the British Raj, I used to feel the same thoughts! Same with any dictatorship, however benevolent - when you abdicate your right to choose to other comforts, I think you are pawning away your life to ssome other system.

    Kripa:The main thing is to be aware that there is a choice and exercise it - we do not always make the "right" ones. And none of these can be answered hypothetically. We surprise ourselves by some choices we make when we actually come to them.
    Thanks re: the fr.exam. Treat, just drop by. an hour's notice would do!

    Vinesh:You are right about making the choice when we are actually there. And how surprising our choices can be at times - these are moments of Truth when we come to understand ourselves better.

  13. Mahadevan Says:

    Here is a second thought. When we exercise our choice and and it goes wrong, we have nobody to blame and we curse ourself. If we allow fate (or whatever you call it) to decide for us, we put the blame on fate when there is a failure and it gives us psychological relief. Feeling of guilt always weigh us down and we are constantly on the look for shoulders to shift the burden.

  14. Paavai Says:

    Not exercising a choice is a choice by itself.

    I would like to plunge into life's waters and let it take me wherever it chooses to take me.

    I tend to play by the heart than the head and it is a conscious choice :)-

  15. Usha Says:

    Mahadevan:The choice of letting things take their own course makes it all convenient to shift the blame unless someone pins us down to the fact that it was an exercise of choice too ( Not making a choice is a choice too as Paavai has said.)

    Paavai: Absolutely. I do it most of the time too.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Usha,
    Sorry to be here late..tied up since my return. Your post is very thought provoking. I certainly do not know what I would do; perhaps you are right...its better to perish with one's loved ones / things! Who knows what incompatabilities the alien place would offer?!
    PS: Congrats on the results re:french exams! It was but expected, eh?

  17. Not so fast, Usha! I'm taking you with me (and your 3b textbook!!)


  18. do your best. smoke pot like willie nelson and wait for bono to sing a song about it.

  19. ravi Says:

    Happy Women's day.

  20. Usha Says:

    Ravi, You're right but now that Vaish is coming along, I will hop in without any doubts !! ( and of course with forum 3 book)

    Hey vaish, could we start teaching our own version of French over there to make a living!!!

    Punky, Sure why not? Sounds like fun!

    Oh..Thanks and to you too!

  21. her Says:

    I shall probably ask someone else to jump in instead of me..

    I have already been given a special space boat.. :)

    I am contented and am not afraid of death!

  22. Usha Says:

    Lioness: Special boat huh? could you carry some of my books along and a few cartons of tea and perhaps two puppies? Please?

  23. her Says:

    Yeah..but one of the puppies would get stolen.. :P

  24. Usha Says:

    lioness, wait for a year and you can have 6 or 7 puppies- that's the idea of taking 2 of them along ok?