Choosing My Path
By Bart Vogelzang

Most everyone, I suspect, coasts through life rather unthinkingly, even though they may have to struggle hard to meet their obligations to self, friends, or family. Efforts to acquire money, health, or relationships may seem like they would need a lot of deep thought, but it’s simply untrue. They need a sort of shrewdness, which some call ‘street smarts’, but in no way do we use our deep philosophical abilities in those pursuits.

The ‘meaning of life’, and how we see ourselves as human beings, requires an in depth analysis of your very core. For some people that may involve a decision to risk their own life in an effort to save others…the hero. Others though, would find such a situation actually requires only a momentary instant to go this way, rather than that, and they simply follow the path after that fork. Of much more significance is the conscious decision to change one’s path, especially with the days, weeks, months and even years required to achieve that goal. It is a choice not made lightly, and usually comes about from a life altering insight…a moment of brilliant understanding the greater picture.

Some might well have such a flash of comprehension, but never actually make any significant change of direction. The momentous incident hovers forever in one’s subconscious, and peeks continually into conscious thought, to pester you with recriminations and self-doubts. At the most inopportune times you will think about it, and realize how you probably should have altered your choice of path at the time, or indeed, any time since. There is an uncomfortable feeling that, should there be a heaven, you just might not get in there because you’ve never gone that extra distance, taken that extra effort, to make that self improvement. For the most part, that’s me.

My very first significant moment was in my first day of work at my first summer job; my boss ordered me to destroy a mud swallow nest with 3 or 4 madly chirping baby swallows peeking over the edge. I’m happy to say that I refused to do it, which is quite the decision for someone who always listened to anyone older than me, particularly if paying my wages. Sadly, I never followed through on that path, and allowed my boss to destroy it when I wasn’t there. I knew he would, and never dealt with it. That lack has haunted me, off and on, for many decades. I fell short of my own expectations, and I know it.

My second was much more traumatic, even for me, because I hit a fawn with my car. When I stopped to check up on it, it seemed to be dead, and I dragged it to the side of the road. The road was one of those in-and-out roads, so I had to pass right by the same location on my return. The fawn was no longer there. Ever since then I’ve wondered if it might actually not have been dead, and dragged itself, in pain and confusion, deeper into the woods, only to expire later, in an agony that I caused and should have ended.

My final one is the one that really bothers me the most. I can make excuses that it was beyond my ability to do anything about it, but they really would be excuses. There was a bird flying around in our office, which was within a larger warehouse style facility. Unfortunately, it kept triggering the motion alarms, and the word went out to all staff that we had to capture the bird, if we couldn’t entice it outside again. We tried to do that, but after 6 hours of trying everything we could think of, the boss told us to give up on that. With much noise and throwing of objects, the poor bird was terrified into a dark corner, with many nooks and crannies to hide in, and several of my co-workers simply boxed it in. That’s right, no attempt to catch it, just boxed it in to die of thirst and starvation. Although I didn’t participate directly in this obscene act, I feel like I should have been awarded some kind of Spanish Inquisition Award for cruelty and injustice. I disappointed myself horribly, and finally I made a change. I supposed I’d been looking at change anyway, but this one really made the difference. I’ve been a staunch defender of animal rights, and human rights, ever since. I don’t do the sign waving, nor the civil disobedience, but I do manage to use some of my skills to encourage people to think about what they do; the world is a harsh enough place without us adding to it. I want everyone to see the bigger picture, and to choose the path of goodness, kindness, and love.