The Purpose of Life
By Richard Kieninger
Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? These two questions are perennially asked by mankind. Is there really a purpose—or did we just “hap-pen” and thus somehow constitute the supreme accident?
Ultimate advancement to the pinnacle of existence—to be one with God!
That is the purpose of life.
From our viewpoint as incarnate humans, we are often aware of this purpose only as an inner urging. We are urged toward something beyond and better than most things we see and experience. Often we experience personal difficulties, and we may see unhappiness in others, especially those to whom we are close, and in seeing these things we feel an inner desire to make them better. We are not talking here of how to make things better, rather we are illustrating an inner urge. The urges we feel to right that which is wrong, to feed that which within ourselves is hungry, to soothe that which is agitated are some of the urges which express the overall purpose of life.
We have an inner urge to be a better person and to help others. We sense something special whenever we are in the presence of one who has advanced further along the path to Mastership. We respond with appreciation when we experience the nobility of man as expressed in great music and great works of art. These responses and urges can help us realize there is an overall purpose of life even though we may not have observed this direct association before.
An individual, if he so chooses, can advance to a state of consciousness and to an operating perfection called Mastership. Now, in full view of the overall purpose of life, we say that an individual through his own choice and effort can advance even further. He can become One with God-- not absorbed by God, but become His equal. In The Ultimate Frontier Dr. White explained:
“Ultimate advancement to the pinnacle of existence—to be one with God! You cannot become one with God until you are His equal in knowledge of everything. God has provided the means and the intermediate steps to do so. It is the very meaning of our presence here. God created us in order to glorify Him in the greatest way imaginable, which is to elevate ourselves to His very level. This concept must not be thought sacrilegious. It is a long, difficult road for us, but it is rich in the satisfaction it provides all along the way. The higher we progress, the more work we do for others. Our tasks become more difficult the farther we advance; yet the rewards become correspondingly more worthwhile.
“God has His being upon the seventh plane of existence which is known as the Celestial Plane. Just because an Ego has reached the state of perfection where He has become a Master functioning on the Mental Plane of existence does not mean that He is nearly a God. To the average man, the magnificence which is a Master is truly beyond comprehension; yet the Master has accomplished but a comparatively elementary course along the path to becoming one of the Celestial Host. when an Ego becomes a Master, He is ready to progress to the fifth plane of existence. Several millions of the Egos assigned to this planet, who were created at the same time as you and I, have already achieved the status of Master. They devote most of their efforts now to aiding the rest of humanity along the path toward Mastership so that progression to the fifth life-wave can be realized as soon as possible.”
As you may have noted, Dr.
White pointed out that God has provided the means and the intermediate steps
to make it possible for us to grow to become one with Him. These intermediate
steps are the seven planes of existence. In ascending order, these seven
planes are the Physical, Etheric, Astral, Mental, Angelic, Archangelic and
Celestial. Human Egos function on the first four planes of existence, Angels
function on the Angelic Plane, Archangels function on the Archangelic Plane
and members of the Celestial Host function on the Celestial Plane. At the
progression of the life-waves, all Egos who have learned everything there is
to know about their respective planes of existence move up to the next
life-wave. From an Ego’s first incarnation until he becomes a Master, from
Master to Angel, from Angel to Archangel, and from
Mind—The Tool of Advancement
Although every Ego among us was absolutely ignorant when our human life-wave was created, we were all endowed with Mind—a power of the fourth plane of existence. Memory, desire, will, curiosity, consciousness, conscience, creativeness, intuition, emotion and reason—these qualities of Mind were the unique gifts designed to make us learn. And it was in this way that we were created in the image of God. It was intended that man should rise naturally in a smooth sequence from the clod he was at creation to the perfection of Mastership.
As the impending end of the Lemurian civilization became obvious, many people migrated to the islands of Poseid and eventually built a new civilization. Approximately one thousand years after the initiation of the government of Atlantis, Melchizedek appeared again, this time taking the name of Poseidonis. He reigned as Emperor for a thousand years, setting up methods and institutions to disseminate information to help the Egos living in Atlantis balance their personalities. Melchizedek set up the first Brotherhood about 21,000 years ago from among those Egos who had already achieved what has since been termed Adeptship and Mastership.
This first Brotherhood, which we shall call the Oldest Lesser Brotherhood, assumed the responsibility to collect, study and analyze the causes of success and failure of civilization. They realized it was imperative that a civilization be formed which would be even greater than the first one to again provide an environment where Egos can make relatively rapid strides to Mastership. A school was established by Melchizedek in Atlantis to teach the concept of balance to the Atlanteans who were basically the overly practical Pfrees, and this school came under the jurisdiction of the Oldest Lesser Brotherhood.
Approximately 12,000 years
ago, the Brahmic Brotherhood was organized in
In addition to the seven Lesser Brotherhoods, there are five Greater Brotherhoods whose members engage in highly transcendent philosophical pursuits of great importance to the increasing uplift of mankind. The difference between the Greater Brotherhoods and the Lesser Brotherhoods is that the former is composed solely of Masters functioning entirely on the Mental Plane while the Lesser Brotherhoods consist of Egos of varying rank, ranging from Initiate (First Degree) to Master (Twelfth Degree). The elected heads of the Twelve Brotherhoods plus Melchizedek are the Council of Thirteen who constitute the Great White Brotherhood.
The principal reasons for the organization of the Brotherhoods are:
1. To provide facilities for instruction of worthy candidates aspiring to human perfection.
2. To garner all knowledge of the truths of existence.
3. To preserve a continuous history of mankind.
4. To relate and analyze the causes for success and failure of civilizations developed by man.
5. To prepare
the way for the perfect
6. To implement Christ’s plans.
7. To protect and guide the entire population of the world.
As stated above, within the seven Lesser Brotherhoods, there are twelve degrees of advancement. These degrees are rigidly established by the Brother-hoods and are distinct measures of true advancement toward human perfection. A Twelfth Degree Brother—a Master—is a human Ego who has learned the essence of everything there is to be known on the first four planes of existence. It is impossible for us to visualize the greatness of such a person, for His powers and unlimited goodness are truly beyond our comprehension. Masters are perfectly free from hate, fear, lust, envy and pride and are above evil. Truly this is a goal worth striving for!
When an Ego has mastered the physical plane and no longer needs to incarnate, He is known as an Adept or one who has passed the Seventh Degree of Brotherhood. Such an Ego has evolved His mental ability so that He enjoys a perfect body in a personal environment exactly to His liking and has learned to perceive the next two planes of existence while still occupying His physical body. After this point, an Ego may advance much more rapidly because He is no longer slowed down by the cycle of rebirth and having to function through a physical brain.
The First through Seventh Degrees are indications of control over one’s self and one’s environment among those Brothers who are still bound to physical existence. It is possible to receive information about the physical plane while you are on the Astral Plane, but in order to convert this information into knowledge, you must become incarnate to apply and experience the information. You cannot truly gain knowledge of the physical plane without experiencing physical existence.
To appreciate the amount of personal knowledge necessary for a person to be granted the various degrees of advancement by the Brotherhoods, let us assign the number one to represent the quantity of knowledge and skills required to be a First Degree Initiate, then it takes four times that amount of knowledge to become a Second Degree Brother. Similarly, it takes nine times the amount of knowledge that is required to be a First Degree Initiate to become a Third Degree Brother. Notice that the amount of knowledge to qualify for each subsequent degree of advancement increases as the square of the number of the degree granted. This means that a Second Degree Brother knows four times as much as a First Degree Initiate, and a Master knows 144 times as much as an Initiate. Remember, the hardest and usually the longest job for any Ego is the attainment of First Degree. After this accomplishment, progress is much more rapid for the Ego because he is directly in contact with the Brotherhood through his clairvoyant abilities.
Because of the natural hierarchy inherent in the graduated Degrees of Brotherhood, an ordered system of instruction and authority has been established within the Brotherhoods. Obviously, the higher the degree of advancement, the more qualified the individual. A Second Degree Brother will take instructions from a Third Degree Brother; for with advancement comes a true humility and an honoring of those who have moved further along the path to perfection. It is important to understand that when a Second Degree Brother carries out the instructions of a Third Degree Brother, His actions are based on His own decision and agreement to do so, for a Brother will never impose His will on another Brother.
In The Ultimate
From time to time the Brotherhoods have founded mundane preparatory schools in various parts of the world in order to provide facilities for the instruction of ‘worthy candidates” aspiring to human perfection. All the Lesser Brotherhoods have had preparatory schools in the United States. Each of these schools teaches the mystery of its Brotherhood, and thus each appeals to a specific segment of the population. The Brotherhoods know which person will benefit most from a particular mystery, and if a man is of sufficient intellect and seems amenable to higher instruction, he is unknowingly guided to contact the appropriate mundane school.
Like the great religious organizations of the world, these schools are in the hands of men and not under the direct control of the Brotherhoods. They were all started and directed in the beginning by incarnate Brothers, and after all the pertinent information had been given and teachers had been developed, the time came for men to apply and pass along this information. Then the Brothers began relinquishing control of the mundane school to those whom They had trained. They assumed a more advisory position; giving help when asked if the teachers had exhausted all their own knowledge or effort. If this seems unfair or inefficient, we should recall the situation of Christ and the Disciples. So long as Christ was alive, the Disciples made little progress on the path to advancement. After living three years with Christ, it was still necessary to stage the Ascension in order to convince them of the Power and Glory of this Great Ego. However, when they were on their own, so to speak, teaching what they had been taught to others, they really began to advance on the Path to perfection. Living with Christ provided them with information, but applying it in their own lives and teaching it to others, gave them knowledge. Although only Matthew had attained First Degree in another lifetime prior to his contact with Christ, most of the Disciples have attained Mastership since then.
Generally speaking, the longer a mundane school of the Brotherhoods has been in existence, the more its information has been diluted. These schools’ teachings do contain Truth, but things change through interpretation. In addition, many sincere students of these schools have donated books to the schools’ libraries which do not necessarily reflect the philosophy of the Brotherhoods. After a period of time, no one is sure what is part of the Brotherhoods and what is not.
There are also about one thousand different organizations and schools throughout the world, not including the mundane preparatory schools of the Brotherhoods, which are more or less condoned by the Brotherhoods. These groups have various appeals and provide information useful to certain persons according to their level of understanding, thus serving as stepping stones on their paths to perfection. For instance, groups are promulgating the information received through Edgar Cayce. Since the publication of The Ultimate Frontier, many books on Mr. Cayce have become available in paperback, and the information presented in them has “rattled the cages” of many persons’ thinking. Having read of Mr. Cayce and his information and trying to fit this information into their own philosophy, many people have incidentally been prepared for The Ultimate Frontier. These groups have also opened the minds of thousands of others so that they are now much more tolerant toward persons interested in metaphysics and mystical concerns. This tolerant atmosphere is necessary for the establishment of Adelphi and for people to gain the most from the examples provided in our community. There is a group or philosophy for every person, and the Brotherhoods will use whatever is available to guide Man in his search for truth.
We have been talking about some of the more obvious ways that the Brotherhoods guide mankind without interfering directly in his environment. Now let us turn our attention to ways that the Brothers guide mankind which are not so obvious. Often we wish to contact the Brotherhoods or hope that we may meet a Brother. This is not usually the way. Generally, the Brothers guide us by putting opportunities for growth beside our path. They will not place these opportunities in such a way that we are forced to trip over them, for this would amount to interference. The opportunity may or may not be pleasant in our eyes, but by solving the problems inherent in it, we will grow. If we pursue the opportunity, then the Brothers will judge our performance and provide another one alongside our path. But should we decide not to follow the possibility open to us, They will patiently provide another opportunity with the same problems inherent in it until we decide to pursue it. The Brothers have the advantage of knowing what each of us came to accomplish and how we are doing on our self-determined mission. They have no desire to frighten us nor to appear great in our eyes, for if we feel ill at ease, we operate less efficiently. Just as God’s original intention was that we should progress naturally along the Path, so the Brothers supply us with the information we need in the most natural-appearing way.
Perhaps some time you may meet a Brother in a direct contact. However, it is unlikely that you would realize that the man or woman to whom you were talking was anything other than an ordinary person. Only by long observation would you begin to suspect that he was a Brother. And should an individual claim to be a Brother, you will know that he is not; for under no circumstances may a Brother reveal his identity as such except to another Brother.
And so the Brothers guide us—sometimes directly but more often indirectly. There is no way to identify Them or to find Them. However, by Their own means They contact the worthy seeker of truth who has made the effort to seek a teacher. They are eager to fulfill the old promise: “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
We talked in part one of this essay of the amounts of knowledge possessed by the Brothers. But how would we describe Them? Boundless patience, love of mankind, all-pervading kindliness, unassuming nature, and humility are Their outstanding characteristics. Wherever They look, They see only good, and They find delight in Their alliance with Christ. They are the bright, radiant, joyous ones moving forward toward perfection. And yet, They are human beings like us, only They have achieved a higher degree of advancement toward Mastership. To Them, we are like beloved younger Brothers. They have wondered at the very things which make us wonder. They have experienced the very things we have experienced. They understand and share our delights and humor, our doubts, our deviations and even our errors. Our Elder Brothers know full well our struggles and our shortcomings, and Their compassion, if fully comprehended by us, would make us marvel just as the Brothers marveled at the compassion of Christ. And yet, They do not want our worship; They want us to join Them.
After studying and analyzing
the successes and failures of various civilizations for thousands of years,
the Brothers determined the requirements for a civilization even greater than
Lemuria. They also determined which concepts and practices should be omitted.
Having visualized a civilization that would not collapse and would provide an
environment in which advancement to Mastership was likely, the Brothers
developed a Plan about 7,000 years ago to bring this civilization into
existence. About 6,000 years ago this Great Plan of the Brotherhoods was
instituted. Slowly and carefully They nurtured and guided civilization to
its present state. Only in the
The Citizens of the
The achievement of First Degree is your primary goal at this time. This is something you can work on wherever you are—right now in your immediate environment. Although the prerequisite for admission into the Kingdom of God is to have attained at least the First Degree, it is not necessary to move to Adelphi in order to be able to move to Philadelphia.
There are many Egos living
throughout the world at this time who have achieved the rank of Brother
already, and most of Them will probably remain where They are for the time
being, thus providing an oasis of peace and an example to others. They all
have Their own assignments in connection with the Great Plan. A short time
before Armageddon and the cataclysms at the turn of the century, all of the
Brothers living throughout the world will be notified of a way to reach
Seven thousand years ago, the Brothers devised the Great Plan; and since then have guided civilization from a barbaric state to a state where some people speak of peace, human equality and democracy. They designed the United States as an important stepping-stone in this Plan, and They have told us of the Plan. They have gone as far as They can without interfering and doing it for us, and now it is up to us. Only through our own efforts can we attain our goal.
Accepting the challenge of acquiring First Degree brings the aspirant to the question: What are the qualifications which entitle an Ego to be granted First Degree? These requirements are, of course, identical for each of the seven Lesser Brotherhoods, and those qualifications have remained fixed since the first Lesser Brotherhood was founded twenty-one thousand years ago. Perhaps the most important qualification is a burning desire to be a Brother. This desire reinforces your lines of communication with Them and opens channels whereby They can help you along the necessary paths toward your acceptance as a Brother. When you ally yourself in close communion with the Brotherhoods, you become an extension of Their good in the world. Truly, then you too become a leaven for good in human affairs. And the stronger your desire to be a Brother, the more you are able to work untiringly for the advancement of mankind.
A second qualification for Brotherhood is having attained a balance between the practical and the spiritual (or idealistic) sides of your nature. It was this characteristic of balance taught to the Citizens of Lemuria which enabled them to create a civilization in which more Egos achieved mastership than at any other time in history. And it is this balance which we must constantly strive to develop; for any civilization will be only as balanced as its citizens.
In Lemuria, all residents
who were not Citizens composed the laboring class. This does not mean that
the Citizens did not work. The Citizens were the only residents in the nation
who could vote and were responsible for the administration of the
government. Those not in government positions were usually leaders of
industry and white collar workers. After a time, the laboring class became
divided into two groups known as Katholis and Pfrees. Just as the Citizens
characterized balance, so the Katholis and Pfrees characterized idealistic
and practical outlooks of a human being, respectively. Later this same
dichotomy was represented by
The overly idealistic person loves beauty and mankind, and he thrills to the wonders of God and nature. He is often governed by his emotions so that he bounces from periods of depression to exaltation. He is typically a very faithful person who lives according to the belief that God will provide everything that is necessary for him. He considers the practical approach to controlling one’s environment as equivalent to a demonstrated lack of faith in God. Typically, such a person disdains material things and is often wasteful and improvident to the disadvantage of both himself and his family. Although he is imaginative and often psychic to some degree, he is not in control of his life because he is a dreamer rather than a doer. He is open to deception because he has not developed discrimination. Being dreamers without discrimination, the Katholis embraced the priests’ promise of a return to Eden. The idealistic person’s faith is strong but often blind because his logic is weak. He is a “believer” often to the point of fanaticism, and he tends to have a closed mind to new ideas.
The extremely practical person, on the other hand, is devoted to functionalism alone and does not value beauty. If something works and is practical in his eyes, then it is good and valuable. Being energetic, aggressive, precise and efficient, he gets things done, but because he is less sensitive to the feelings of others, he often steps on others’ toes. He is very materialistic and finds artistry, charity and religion incompatible with his practical interests. His world tends to be austere and mechanistic. Because every idea must square with his reasoning, he is intolerant and overly critical of those proposing new ideas, and his views are usually fixed. His need to touch, hear and see in order to be convinced, combined with the need to have everything be logical, makes it difficult for him to believe in God or have faith in anything. He does not need God, for he can do everything himself, or so he thinks.
The balanced man has taken the positive, beneficial aspects of both the idealistic and practical outlooks and has created a personal environment which is beautiful as well as utilitarian. He seeks to perceive nature and the Universe through both metaphysical and scientific disciplines. He is a giver more than a taker, a creator more than a parasite. He is in command of his destiny but has compassion for persons less able. The balanced man has developed his God-given mental potentials of reason, creativity, will power, intuition and memory by purposely exercising his Mind in order to strengthen and reinforce these attributes. By practicing logic, precipitation, telepathy and Egoic remembrance of past incarnations, the Mind is made to grow; and the Ego becomes increasingly aware of its place in the Cosmos as a result. The Brothers must restrict Their selection of First Degree Initiates to those who have shown control of their lives through their mental abilities - practicality and idealism balanced to optimum effectiveness. These capable Egos are the only “building blocks” permitted to populate the Nation of God on Earth, for defective blocks in the “edifice of civilization” would only weaken it.
No one reading this essay is as extremely idealistic or as extremely practical as the examples given above, for such a person would not be attracted to this course of study. However, you should take time to evaluate yourself and decide whether you are more idealistic than practical, or vice versa, or fairly balanced. If you are more idealistic than practical, develop the habit of basing your decisions on logic rather than on emotions or intuition. Whenever possible, list all the pros and cons of a situation on a piece of paper, and then make your decision. This will be a difficult thing for you to do and perhaps seem slow, but it is really one of the ways for you to develop practicality. For those of you who feel that you are more practical than idealistic, cultivate an interest in some type of art. This interest may be in the field of fine arts or perhaps something like interior decorating, architecture, landscaping or the art of cooking. To be able to prepare a scientifically well-balanced meal and have all parts of it ready to serve at the same time characterizes practicality, but to set a beautiful table choosing foods which create a harmony of taste and color characterizes spirituality. Or show a child the wonders of nature. As you look for things to show him, your own appreciation of such things will grow immeasurably.
Many of you have probably found it impossible to choose whether you are more practical or more idealistic. It seems to you that you are relatively balanced. This is probably true. And yet, you are not a Brother. Either you have not yet acquired the amount of practicality, spirituality and mentality needed to be a Brother, or else you have not yet fulfilled one or more of the other qualifications. In any case, you should strive to improve yourself by working on both the practical and idealistic sides of your nature at the same time so as not to become out-of-balance as you move forward.
For all students, the acquisition of balance requires that you set up a time each day to review the events of the day. As you look at each situation recalling how you reacted, try to determine if there was a better way to have handled it. You may ask yourself, “What would Christ or a Master have done?” Analyzing your actions and improving yourself is a lifetime vocation. Remember, you will get out of this lifetime what you put into it. Great effort will reap great reward.
A third qualification for Brotherhood is that you must have no negative karma. In any organization, each member is affected by the karmic status of all the other members; so a lack of positive karma would threaten the solidarity and effectiveness of the Brotherhoods. Moreover, one’s being liable to retribution is not compatible with the practice of service to man which so beautifully characterizes every Brother and candidate for Brotherhood. Since precise knowledge of your karmic account is unknown to you prior to initiation into the Brotherhoods, you should consciously begin to acquire karmic “credits.” So that you do not get involved with operating in the environment of another person, it is well to concentrate on performing small acts of kindness, such as picking up a pencil someone dropped or phoning a friend to say how glad you are that you are friends. Little things mean a lot. Rendering excess service to others is the natural practice of one seeking Egoic advancement. Doing things to serve mankind in general or to forward God’s Plan is most conducive to the acquisition of karmic credits, and does not involve one-for-one karmic interplay as much as in serving individuals. However, doing for another what he should do for himself can gain the doer negative karma.
A high level of skill in at least one trade or profession is another qualification for First Degree. A man who can support himself or his wife and family comfortably has usually fulfilled this qualification. This qualification is probably easier for a woman to fill than a man, for she has many skills available to her in her home. She may choose to develop any one of them.
Another prerequisite to First Degree is self-controlled clairvoyance. This means that you are able to see and communicate with Egos on the Astral Plane at will, and you do not have to wait for someone to contact you. There are no techniques that you should be doing directly to acquire this ability. Rather, you should be concentrating on advancing yourself by attaining balance and a refined character. When you are spiritually advanced enough, you will automatically become clairvoyant. Unfortunately, it is possible to practice certain physical exercises and contemplative mental techniques, such as those used by some yogis, to develop breakthroughs into perceptions of other planes. However, when you “force” your consciousness into the Astral Plane, you will contact the Lower Astral; but when you have acquired clairvoyance through uplift of your character, usually through practice of the Great Virtues, you will naturally contact the Upper Astral Plane; for you will be attuned to the finer Egos who are there. The chances of insanity or of possession by nether entities which can occur from prematurely forcing your way into perception of the Astral Plane are too great to ignore. Besides, simply having clairvoyant ability does not make you spiritually advanced. It only means that you have developed certain mental powers. Clairvoyance should be clearly distinguished from mystic awareness, which is a brain state characterized by a neurological interconnection between all the major centers of the brain, especially the cerebellum, neocortex and Limbic (emotion) system. This state permits an expanded mode of processing information so as to gain insights into the nature of reality beyond the reach of having only cortex processes available for reasoning and awareness. The mystic state is most safely enhanced through the Violet Screen meditation technique.
As you start acquiring these qualifications for First Degree, you should be aware that you are functioning through a physical body and brain. The attainment of Brotherhood is the greatest challenge you will face in this lifetime, and it will require all the will and energy you have to give. It is imperative that you develop superlative health and stamina. If you allow your body to deteriorate, you will be greatly hampered in acquiring your goal of First Degree. There is no need to worry or fret over your body, simply take care of it.
The qualifications which entitle an Ego to be granted First Degree may be summarized as follows:
1. Balance between the practical, idealistic and mental aspects of your nature.
2. A sincere aspiration to become a Brother.
3. No negative karma.
4. A high level of skill in at least one trade or profession.
5. Self-controlled clairvoyant ability and mystic awareness.
6. Cheerful, positive attitude.
7. Superlative health and stamina.
You have information concerning the purpose of life and the Great Plan of the Brotherhoods for helping mankind reach this purpose. The Brothers have wisely decided that no one may live in the Nation of God who has not achieved the First Degree of Brotherhood, and information has been given concerning the qualifications of Initiation. The choice to work toward Initiation and to join the Brothers in carrying out the Great Plan is yours.
Yes, and if you should take that step -Before you do, ‘tis better think on this,
Long days ahead — and moonless nights
And sadness never guessed nor wished are yours.
And infinite movement is a clashing dance,
And pain a function — a part of all.
We cannot ask the atom if it hurts from the
endless movement of its universe
But watch the wave gnaw at the beach
And sand the mighty rock become.
If you take the step you’ll dance with time
and everlasting your rhythms twine
With rumbling quake and leaping flame
In syncopated movement fall
To rise to heights ne’er dreamed
To crash upon an endless wall
To creep in worm like silence
To core of earth — to mother’s womb
And back to watch the flowers bloom.
Are we ready? Shall we go?
I hear heart quake, volcano roar —
The step is taken, you’ll die no more.
Those who have made this decision and gone ahead confirm that the above poem states reality. They confirm as well that no matter the pain and turbulence, the committed life is worth it all. These people also report that the decision is actually a chain of daily decisions (“Today I dedicate to the Great Plan”) and that an accumulation of these decisions amount to an entirely new life. Five years from now, what will you be saying about all this?