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Obligation or Choice? Setting Yourself Free to Choose Your Contribution


November 8, 2017 By Jeddah Mali
Choice or Obligation?

Contribution – Obligation or Choice? is the title of a topic I am exploring in an upcoming workshop. I arrived at this title by contemplating the role we are here to play, individually and collectively in the future of our planet. It goes to the heart of why we are here in the first place. And I guess that question leads us straight into the topic of purpose. 

Purpose has been a hot topic in the self–development world for a long time. Now it’s the buzz word in business circles. I myself have had a shot at answering this in my own newsletters (though human purpose could hardly come under the category of news!). Nevertheless, the proliferation of interest in purpose does point to a newish awakening to the sense that we are here for a reason (and not just aimlessly wandering through life with no apparent benefit as some will tell you – my father included when he was alive).

What might that reason be?

We are here to learn about how we’re made, our innate nature, how we function. We’re here to experience our make-up, nature and function as we live it. We’re here to use that experience as the basis for a growing knowledge (understanding) of life. We’re here to see what we can do with that knowledge once we’ve acquired it. So if that is our purpose for being here, how can we best spend our days? 

We are here to learn about how we’re made, our innate nature, how we function.

We must first try to summarise what it is that we learn from living this life. Sooner or later (read: several thousand lifetimes up to several hundred thousand) we see that we are not alone in this thing called life. Every thought, every emotion, every word, every action has a profound effect on us and our environment. We cannot exist without affecting the matrix around us. No wonder it is called the Web of Life. And because of this interconnected activity in the design, it is almost an inaccuracy to say that we have an individual life at all. (Imagine a video screen with one pixel moving and all the others static. The overall picture couldn’t evolve, no matter how dynamic the moving pixel. But now visualise them all moving, responding to their neighbours and collectively contributing towards the overall moving image that keeps on emerging but remains coherently visible). We are akin to one pixel, but without our neighbours doing their bit to respond to ours, we cannot make a coherently emerging ‘picture’. 

Choice and Pixellation

credit: unsplash.com

Equal to the buzz about purpose is the exposure now given to ‘social good’. This term is used to encompass all those activities, both personal and professional, that lead us towards a more equitable relationship with our fellow man and our planet. The news that ‘we are all one’ is not news at all. It has been around for a very long time in ancient teachings. But in recent years there is a new way of relating to it and expressing it. We are encouraged to give, share, open, reach out in how we book a taxi, how we get a room for the night, how we use social media, how we get our news, how we fundraise and so on. Suddenly (or so it seems) there is a consciousness that how we spend money and allocate resources affects not just our own world but a whole network of individuals and organisations, most of which we will never physically meet. And yet ask the average 20 year old about a network of interconnected humans, creatures and planet, and they take it very much for granted that it exists.

So it begs the question; is our contribution to each other and our planet an obligation or a choice? We said it’s almost impossible to be individual, and structurally this is true. However we do retain our free will and with that comes the right to choose. But now we’re faced with a curious conundrum. If we are increasingly aware that we are all one and that our fate is interconnected with others, how can we choose any other option than one that serves us all? And if it’s becoming that obvious that this is the only viable choice, is it any more a real choice? Does it become an  obligation?

If we are increasingly aware that we are all one and that our fate is interconnected with others, how can we choose any other option than one that serves us all?

Each of us will of course find our own answer to this.

I am reminded of the difference between giving freely and giving because it is required. Even if the action is the same in both cases, the outcome is different because of the calibre of intent put into motion. If we consider the gestures of love, appreciation, goodwill, compassion, kindness and so on, we can feel the quality of our intent right there in the state that these gestures create. We can say that the world ‘needs’ love and technically we would be right. But it feels very different when we choose to love, not because it is required, but because it represents the wisest (most knowledgeable) choice for that moment. For me, the very fact that these gestures remain my choice to give is part of the sweetness of giving. And the more we give, the less we consider withholding.

Choice and Giving

credit: unsplash.com

However the quality, effectiveness and impact of our intentions become fine-tuned when we understand the material that we’re working with. Exploring the underlying fabric of life reveals an intelligent, responsive and resilient system that operates effortlessly in diversity, and at scale, without losing its central coordination. That is no small feat! When we understand this experientially, not just theoretically, it allows us to partner with it. This partnership doesn’t allow us to reverse gravity or the trajectory of the sun, but it does mean that we can utilise its inherent qualities and abilities which result in a sense of personal connection, alignment and purpose. And we also access the ability to scale so that the impact of our contribution is far reaching, and universally beneficial.


If you are interested in exploring life’s inherent ‘operating system’, join Jeddah in person or via livestream at her four day workshop, What Makes Life Work, December 2 – 5, 2017. On Friday, November 10, she will be here and also livestreamed as part of a TEDx series here in Findhorn’s Universal Hall

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