The weight of past decisions.
This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.
Life is a feast of opportunities. There are so many different paths that our lives could take, so many places, people, sensations, ideas, and missions whose impact we could experience. We will only ever sample a minuscule fraction of these in our short lives. While this vast choice is often a cause for frustration and regret, the endless possibilities offered should be celebrated.
One of the greatest forces restricting our choices is our own past behavior, decisions, and commitments. Given how many opportunities we will eventually pass up, the last thing we want to do is to enter into yet more restrictions of our freedom and choice. Surely, we should always strive to free ourselves from our past decisions and structure our lives so that we are as unencumbered as possible by the past.
Firstly, there is often little we can do about the impact that our past decisions continue to exert on our lives. Not only is what is done unchangeable, but the unyielding laws of physics and complex systems dictate that much of the past will have enduring effects on the present as well as its continuation into the future. The choices we made at university might have an impact for decades, and our interpersonal decisions will last at least one lifetime if not more.
On the other hand, perhaps it is great that we live in a universe where the choices we make have such a far-reaching impact. Our investments will continue to bear fruit, and most importantly, what we do matters. If our actions had little impact, our lives would lack meaning.