One of the first lessons we learn as children is that our actions have consequences. When I heard that as a kid, typically it meant that I had made a bad decision resulting in a negative consequence, like being grounded for a week. However, a consequence is the outcome of an event and can be a gain, a loss, an injury, anything. When we think of it this way, consequences result from every action and decision we make. The way we choose to act, speak, and eat all have consequences, and the older I get, the more I realize this.
Not everyone chooses to accept this truth. We wish our choices in life could be easy and their outcomes and consequences be neatly defined. Some people want this so much that they actually choose to see things like that. There isn’t anything wrong with this outlook on life, it works for some, but the more my restless mind thinks about the choices I make, the more consequences come to light.
This can be overwhelming and even depressing at times, but the ability to do so helps to keep you grounded. Let me show you a seemingly simple example: should I buy organic vegetables? The easy response would be “yes” because if they are certified organic, they meet a long list of strict guidelines that make them better for people and the environment. This is the response of a lot of people. However, there are so many questions that are raised in my mind that make this a choice with no right or wrong answer. Observe: organic doesn’t tell us anything about the way that the farmers are paid, so are their wages worse than those growing in another manner? How about the workers? Does the farm have illegal immigrants earning a dollar a day slaving over the crop because their labor is cheaper? Where was the vegetable grown? Was it flown in from China? Is buying it supporting someone in my area? How far has it traveled, thus resulting in a huge fuel footprint when I could buy a non-organic vegetable from my neighbor? Just because it’s organic doesn’t make it local or fair trade. Am I supporting an individual or am I supporting a massive corporation?
So what if all of those thoughts applied? What if that organic vegetable you bough did indeed come from 3,000 miles away where the farm was run by cheap unfair labor? What if this had to be done because the farmer was not getting paid enough for his crop? And don’t forget; now you supported the use of all that gasoline just to get it here. And what if you could have gone to a local summer farmer’s market and purchased the same thing that was not organic but may have ended up making a world of difference?
The example is a little extreme, but much of it can be true with other “simple” choices in life. So now that you are depressed and confused and don’t know what the “right” answer would be in the situation, stop thinking. The whole purpose of the exercise is to show that all of our choices do indeed have a ridiculous number of consequences. And this is the world we live in today. Understand how hard it can be to make the “right” choice? See how there really is no right or wrong?
What do you do? After discovering the long list of possible consequences, you might change your mind as to what you decided to do. Maybe not. That’s okay too. Me personally? While I think that buying organic is more beneficial than harmful, for me, the most obvious consequence is cost. Right now, it’s not economically feasible for my budget. Sometimes I may “splurge” and buy one item, but I just can’t afford it all the time. But at least I understand and accept all the consequences of my action. And I’m okay with that right now.