I do not believe the gods test us. To be fair, I don’t believe in gods. But if you’re going to subscribe to this idea, that life is testing you, then your life is basically one continuous, never ending test that you can’t be graded on.

There is only the decisions we make and that is the sum totality of our being. I wrote this in my journal after an abrupt shift in my personal life and shortly after, I came across the following quote by Carl Jung. He describes a vision he had when delirious and ill:


I had the feeling that everything was being sloughed away; everything I aimed at or wished for or thought, the whole phantasmagoria of earthly existence, fell away or was stripped from me… Nevertheless something remained; it was as if I now carried along with me everything I had ever experienced or done, everything that had happened around me… I consisted of my own history, and I felt with great certainty: this is what I am.” (MDR: 290-291)

When I was a teen, I instinctively focused on what interested me. I poured a lot of myself into my education and into the acquisition of knowledge. You know the saying, “no one can take your education away from you.” I focused on things that I thought were worth my time: education, health, friendships, that sort of thing.

Except that it’s become pretty clear to me that everything is falliable. I could develop a chronic disease with no cure and pass the rest of my life in various states of physical pain. I could have a horrible accident and sustain irreversible brain damage, losing all of the personal memories or knowledge I’ve gained over the years. My friends, even the best of them, could one day betray me; they are most certainly guaranteed to disappoint me eventually – perhaps they will even disappoint me multiple times. Even the gods can become inaccessible to you. My god, my god, why have You forsaken me?

So at the end of the day, what have you got? What you have always had and the only thing you can be: all the decisions you have ever made in your life. From the big, difficult life choices that you agonized over down to the little, quotidian habits you never gave a passing thought to. That’s it.

That’s not only what you’ll have at the end of the day, that is all you have right now. And if you think you have anything else, it’s an illusion. We don’t own anything. Everything you think you have, even that which you identify with – especially that which you identify with – is just a passing guest in your life. And if everything is a guest, are you going to show your guests hospitality, or are you going to turn your guests away?


I’ve been turning a lot of guests away while trying to convince those who are ready to leave, to stay. And I’m still figuring it out, this delicate balance of how to be an ethical host. I haven’t been pleased with some of the choices I’ve made. But the thing about ethics is that it is not a zero-sum game.

There is no room for perfection in ontology – the idea is utterly absurd. I do not believe in any weighing out of your actions at the end of your life and hoping the “good” will outbalance the “bad.” There is only the actions you’ve taken, and that is all. Life is not a test, although it can so often feel that way. There is only the shape of your ethic. And there is really only one way forward that I trust: to know the shape that you are and are becoming into – and to make another choice.