Cut loose the life you decided not to live. Just cut it.
Ever wonder what coded messages the ancients left for us in language?
All of our histories are written into our language, one way or another. Like, take the word “knight” as in a “knight in shining armour”.
Apparently, when that word first entered the English language, centuries ago, it was pronounced as it was written. Like, ‘k-nig-h-t’ or something like that.
(I think it was a German word originally).
Then, at some point, in the space of like ten years, people in London just started pronouncing it ‘nite’. Suddenly, the poems of the age stopped rhyming knight with megahertz, and started rhyming it with ‘bite’.
And no one knows why.
The entire English language pivoted on a 2 cent piece and no one thought it was worth writing down why they did it.
I guess there was only like 200 of them at the time so they probably didn’t think it was important.
So every word tells a story.
But the one that’s always interested me is our ‘cision’ words. ‘Cision’ comes from the latin word ‘to cut’ but then it goes and shows up in a bunch of random words.
Some are pretty clear. ‘Incision’ makes sense obviously – to cut into. Then there’s ‘Circumcision’ – to cut the circus.
But then precision is a little looser – I guess it’s like to cut off all the fat and excess, and cut right down to the fine detail. And do that first before you do anything else… Um, I guess it’s not exactly clear what they were thinking there.
But then there’s ‘decision’.
“1425-75; late Middle English decisioun < Middle French < Latin dēcīsiōn- (stem of dēcīsiō) literally, a cutting off, equivalent to dēcīs(us) (past participle of dēcīdere; see decide ) + -iōn- -ion”
“A cutting off.” How is a decision like a cutting off?
For a long time, this one never sat right with me. The whole cutting thing seemed like an oddly violent thing to pair with making a choice.
I guess I would have gone with something more measured and considered. Maybe pull in the word for “weigh” or something.
But no, in 1425, they went with cut.
What were they thinking?
I have two theories. You can tell me which one sits better with you. Which one is a better match for what it feels like when you make a decision?
Unresearched Theory No. 1
I think ‘analysis paralysis’ is probably unique to our generation. I don’t think previous generations had the same amount of information on hand, or had to make decisions of similar complexity.
In 1425, most choices were probably pretty simple. Do I plant the field today, or do it tomorrow?
They probably didn’t have to weigh up the pros and cons of an issue the way we do. What career best reflects my innate talents and soul’s true purpose? Do I buy a high cashflow property in a low growth area, or a low cashflow property in a high growth area? Can I still go out for a beer with Bradley, even though he and my wife’s sister are getting a divorce?
First world problems, I know. But I’m not saying the choices we have to make these days are more important – just more complex. There’s a broader field of factors to consider.
But back when it was “plant today? plant tomorrow?” it was probably more straight forward. And in the context of a straight forward decision, ‘cutting’ might be about right.
Line up Option A and Option B next to each other, lop the head off one, and get on with the other.
“I’m doing the fields tomorrow, woman. Bring me some ale.”
But I also think this is a good way to think about decisions. It involves a certain element of death. Of killing.
I mean, when the road forks, we’ve got to chose one path to live out. The other path, and all the possibilities and promises that went with it, has to die.
We have to cleave it from our life story, and say, yep, there would have been many wonderful things about that particular direction. But it’s not where I’m going.
I don’t think we’re all great at being that ruthless. We like to nurture the different life paths under our care. I don’t want to commit fully to this path, because I’m still interested in exploring this direction. I don’t want to commit fully to my career in real estate because I’m still holding out hope that a country music label is going to discover my talents.
Unresearched Theory No. 2
Want uninformed opinions? I’ve got hundreds of them. So I wonder if the ‘de’ in decision, is actually about removal – as in de-humidify.
De-cision in that sense is the removal of the cut.
It’s about moving from a place where you’re in two minds about something, back to a place where you have a single mind.
It’s about moving from a place where your mind is entertaining all sorts of possibilities, back to a place where you are single-mindedly focused on the path ahead of you.
Again it’s about letting go of the alternative realities you could be living in, and bringing yourself back to the life you have in the here and now.
Any cuts and partitions in your mind are gone. Your mind is healed and whole.
Your determination is resolute.
It’s what the ancients would have wanted.
What do you think?
There’s no way of knowing what the ancients had in mind, but I think both theories point to an important but often over-looked part of decision making. That is the ability to let go of the road not chosen.
To cut it from your life, or to remove the cut that allowed part of your brain to live in that potential reality. To let that alternative reality die, and to give yourself fully to the choice you made.
Just as the ancients would have wanted.
How does decision making feel to you?