A Choice Between Two Irreconcilable Goods.

Posted on May 4, 2011


Some time last summer I made a discovery. I figured out how I could live life as a coal miner.

I’m not sure why I couched my discovery in these terms but, at some point, I realized: for this person, for this embrace, for this feeling, I could work sixteen hours underground, if I knew she would be there waiting for me at the end of the day.

Fortunately, there are no coal mines in Ottawa.

Unfortunately, forced to choose between two irreconcilable goods, she recently decided to go with the other good. Given the circumstances, I can’t fault the decision, even if it isn’t the decision I would have made.

John Gray argues, contrary to the claims of some, that it is possible to choose rationally between two irreconcilable goods in the here and now. No one answer will work for all people in every circumstance but for each particular person and for each particular decision a rational and correct choice can be made.

In academia, the debates about these kinds of choices normally emphasize the sense of loss experienced by the person who is forced to chose one good over the other. Outside the tower, I’m learning that the experience of not being chosen kind of sucks too.

The problem with history is the absence of a control group. There’s no way for a person to know how he would have chosen in the here and now if he had chosen differently in the very many choices leading up to the present decision. The choices we make change who we are and how we will choose in the future. What once seemed impossible becomes plausible, probable, and, at last, a reality.

Having said that, I’m fairly certain the guy who was ready to go into the coal mine wouldn’t have let this happen. Same for the girl who would have made his life in that coal mine worth living. Of course, if she and I are the results of the choices they made, I suppose in their own way they did contribute to this decision.

People live; they choose; they evolve: sometimes they grow closer, sometimes they grow farther apart.

And life goes on.