In a letter dated May 19, 1952, American writer, Lillian Hellman, refused to testify against her associates after being summoned to appear on May 21 before the now infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities.
This Committee, known as HUAC, was convened by Senator Joe McCarthy to root out Communists in the US. It was an era of fear, nascent nuclear power, and the developing Cold War between the USSR and the West, and many careers and lives were destroyed because of McCarthy and his cohort’s obsessive paranoia about Communism and its followers.
Lillian Hellman, a hero of mine, made a decision of immediate and lasting significance by refusing to dob in her mates. On this day over half a century ago, the Committee of hate-fuelled little men were advised: “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” Her defiance saw her blacklisted by Hollywood for many years, but history has emphatically demonstrated who was on the side of justice and honour.
Let’s decide, like Lillian, not to cut our consciences, grasshoppers – but be ready for resistance, mostly from ourselves.
Rainbows are certainly a little glimpse of heaven, or else refracted light …
Have you decided yet whether or not you believe in heaven? Did you ever contemplate making such a decision, or is your belief, one way or the other, so ingrained, so embedded like html code in the web, that you’ve never given it a second thought, you’ve never thought to re-decide your position?
Why not think about it now as you read this Guardian interview with Stephen Hawking, Professor of Physics at Cambridge University in England (and author of the bestseller, A Brief History of Time – fairly unreadable by most people after the first few pages, I’d argue – of course, I could be in the midst of a gaggle of physics nerds, in which case, good luck to you, you stringy buggers).
In essence, in this interview, Professor Hawking believes we’re walking computers and once our brains turn off the lights for the last time, that’s it. Heaven, he says, is for those afraid of the dark. So much for knowing the mind of God, as he wondered all those years ago in A Brief History …
What do you think, grasshoppers? Heaven or no heaven? Deal with God, or no Deal, ever? Or would you rather fence-sit and wait to see what happens upon the last flicker?
P.S. Check out the comments in the Guardian article as well – some of them are laugh-worthy.
Leon’s tree, like all of us, experiences decisive moments every moment. It’s a product of nature, like all of us, whose systems are constantly making decisions about how best to survive in its environment and weather the circadian rhythms of life.
So what better earthly creature to demonstrate that decisive moments aren’t always obvious and sometimes don’t become apparent for some time after they occur. Sometimes, it’s never, but it can be calming to gaze upon a beautiful tree and know that, at every moment, decisions are being made that will decide its present and future. A Few More Blinks
Want to read up on how your brain works and, more specifically, how you make up your mind. Why not decide to read Jonah Lehrer’s book The Decisive Moment: How the Brain Makes Up Its Mind. The title is self-explanatory (there’s also an edition called How We Decide – it’s the same book), but here’s some text from the blurb to help you decide:
If you believe rational thought is the foundation of wisdom and that the best decisions are based on logic not emotion, think again. Our decisions are products of an intricate mix of reason, intuition and emotion. If we relied on reason alone we’d be almost incapable of deciding anything at all.
The Decisive Moment tells the amazing story of what goes on in th ebrain when we make a decision. In lucid and accessible prose Lehrer presents cutting-edge neuroscience and psychological research. He uncovers the debate occurring between different parts of the brain when we face a choice – a debate we are almost always unaware of and often have no control over.
Jonah Lehrer also has a very interesting blog at Wired called The Frontal Cortex where you can read more about the brain and its funny little ways. Highly recommended.
Wondering what to do this week? Why not decide to donate something? How about blood, or time, or effort, or your organs? How about furniture, gadgets, a sense of purpose, an air of calmness about your person?
It seems we’re inching closer to Armageddon, the end of days, the last of the Autumn Sales, with diminishing opportunities to enjoy a really great cheesecake.
How do I know this? Because I read the billboards, grasshoppers. And the billboards here in my adopted hometown tell me that Judgement Day is scheduled for 21 May, 2011. That’s a Saturday, and according to my funny little 2011 diary, it’s also Armed Forces Day. I don’t know which Armed Forces, could be the Four Horsemen of the Royal Apocalypse Regiment, I guess – good old FH RAR.
Interestingly, my funny little diary continues through to the end of the year, so I suppose that’s a waste of paper. I plan to make the most of those spare pages by doodling my way out of existence on 21 May while drinking tea, eating pizza and sliding that last delicious slice of cheesecake off the spoon and into my soon to be immolated innards.
So, to cut things short – I’m sure you’ll understand I don’t have time to dawdle – here’s the deal: use Saturday, 21 May 2011, as a Day of Decision. A Few Blinks More
What does it take to provoke active decision-making in our lives? We go along to get along, don’t we? It’s hard to change even if we want to. Routine is comforting and useful, it’s handy when you need to know which way’s up. But sometimes – more and more frequently these days, it seems – events occur – decisive events, fatally decisive events – that shake you up and out of your routine and running on automatic. They can shake you into a decisive moment. A Few Blinks More
After a week of decisive moments moving the world forwards, sideways, backwards, and nowhere at all, it must be time for a bonus decision, made mindfully in the moment, and with intent. A Few Blinks More
It’s short, it’s sweet, and who can argue with a guru like Seth Godin. This is what he advised in a recent post on his blog :
You don’t need more time…
you just need to decide.
It’s as easy and as hard as that. Decisive moments will save us time, there’s no doubt at all about it, it’s getting the practice in that’s important. How much do you dither during a day? Do a dither audit and find out. What’s cooling in the kitchen, lurking in the lounge-room, bloviating in the bedroom, slithering around the study, waiting for you to make a decision? Is it animal, vegetable, mineral, metaphorical, or thoughtful?
What small thing could you decide to do now so that you can start practising for real? Maybe you could:
Pick up the phone and renew your gym membership, or cancel it.
Go to where your sneakers are cowering, put them on, slip, slop and slap, and get out the door for a walk.
Find a notebook, grab a pen, and start the journal you always said you wanted to keep – write for five minutes, and five minutes only, then stop. You can decide to do it again tomorrow.
Go to the nearest gadget selling shop, buy a digital camera (they’re very cheap these days), get them to throw in a camera bag and an extra battery, and start your life with photography today.
Whatever little thing you decide to do, you’ll feel better, I guarantee it. Eleanor Roosevelt said, You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
So begin today, grasshoppers, decide to make a decision, and be decisive about it.
Why did she do it? Because she could. Cyndi Lauper, delayed with hundreds of other passengers at a Buenes Aires airport, took things, including the PA system, into her own hands, and did what she does best: she captured everyone with her decisive moment and defused frustration, anger, and impatience with a song. And not just any song, but one of the best. Enjoy.