Living without contingency

the choice is yours

My head is full of several thoughts I've been trying to write about for quite a while. The ideas are so entangled, so wrapped up in each other, I don't know how to separate them, I don't even know which ones are which. And so I'm just going to write.

I think there's something really important in the distinction between living "contingently" and living "non-contingently". Most people, I think, live contingent lives, focusing on making decisions on the basis of guesses and probability.

When you make a contingent decision, you decide what to do based on what you expect the results will be. You make your moral choices, your life choices, your relationship and career choices based on what you think you will get. Every choice becomes a bargain, a negotiation with life.

This is "ends justify the means" - this is living contingently.

The problem with it is that we can never know for sure what we will get, and so life will always be a gamble, and in almost all cases, we will lose. But there is an alternative, one that I'm only starting to explore. I know very little about it - but I know that it's vastly more rewarding.

To live non-contingently, we make our decisions based on the choices themselves. We do what we do because we know that it satisfies at a deep level. And regardless of what happens later, we will be happy with our choices, because we made them for their own good, and not what we hoped to get from them.

As a musician, I've encountered this on many occasions. There is always the pressure to make people happy, to play to the lowest common denominator of audience emotions. But what happens if you perform a song you don't like, just because you know the audience will react well? What if the audience doesn't react well?

I'm learning to choose the songs that I like for themselves. In doing so, I know that I can look back on that performance, no matter what, and be satisfied.


You've begun to articulate something I've also just lumped into two words: instinct and intuition. I knkow there is a kind of "negotiator"--a criminal devil's advocate--that paralyzes the modern man / woman. Especially the modern man. Hamlet is the consummate explemplar of "contingency paralysis."

I think a certain, humble, sense of contigency to an ultimate reality enables me to live without penultimate contigency. In other words, "I'm taken care of by the ultimate Person so I can trust my decisions follow OKness" (and not people pleasing, et al.

Deep post. I'll process this for a while.

“We can never be sure what we will get,” might be an “it depends” statement. It is difficult to be sure of the timing of what we will get. It is difficult to know how what we get is related to what we have previously done—the time frame may be beyond human knowledge. But perhaps one might agree that the law of cause and effect indicates there is some relation between what we have done, what we are doing, and what we get. Nothing arises without a cause. Just because we aren't sure of the direct relationship and when we might experience the return of our effort doesn't mean we shouldn't review potential outcomes before acting.

Regarding "non-contingent" living, and basing what we do on what feels good on a deep level, it is worth reviewing the relative nature of our concept of both "good" and “deep”. On the one hand, nothing we do can harm or benefit the most ultimate part of our nature, the essence of our being. Yet time and time again, we have been guided by great cultivators and examples that what we do does matter. It matters far more than just what seems meaningful, or what brings happiness, to ourselves. It impacts the very fabric of our existence.

How can this be? In regards to the essence of our nature, there is nothing which can be impacted. But in regards to the function of that essence, the response of the essence to stimuli, everything which is thought, spoken or done by material things is stimulating a response of some kind.

This is the danger of non-contingent living, where one bases one’s action on one’s sense of satisfaction, content, peace or pleasure, assuming that one’s sense is natural, and what is natural “knows what’s best for me”. Just because we may have an understanding that “God is within” doesn’t mean that whatever brings us happiness is from God, or will produce a response from the essence of life which one could call “positive”.

There is more to a human being than the everlasting, we are also beings which have a temporary aspect of our nature. Our bodies still naturally respond to sugar and fats as if they are rare to come by, we crave them “naturally”. We think we are being guided “from within” what we need, but in the end, the guidance seeks a temporary satisfaction but results in a negative impact.

So until I am clear that my human heart is responding to the guidance of my everlasting nature, until I begin to realize that true content does not arise from doing or from receiving, but rather, from diminishing, I will be cautious to use a sense of happiness or pleasure as a guideline for the choices I make in life, and instead, will review:

1) Is the focus on benefitting others in the most long-lasting way, or benefitting oneself temporarily?
2) Is there a learning mentality, or a teaching mentality?
3) Is there some attachment, desire for a particular result?
4) Do I feel guilty in any way?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and providing this opportunity for self-review.