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“The necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude and perseverance” (Samuel Adams).
NO ONE WOULD DENY THAT WE LIVE IN TIMES THAT ARE DANGEROUS. Monumental problems face us, both individually and collectively. There has never been a more interesting or exciting time to be alive, but even so, living today is like walking through a minefield. And if Samuel Adams could say long ago that “the necessity of the times . . . calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude and perseverance,” the same could be said even more truly today. Nowadays, to dispense with “deliberation” is to court disaster.
Interestingly, our word “deliberation” comes from libra, the Latin word for a balance or scales. So the Latin verb deliberare meant to “consider” something — that is, to “balance” the arguments for and against a thing and make a reasoned judgment as to which position outweighs the other. In English, then, deliberation means thoughtfulness in decision or action. If we do something deliberately, that means we consider or plan it in advance with a full awareness of everything that is involved. Deliberate things are done purposefully.
Given the challenges we face today, it sounds like a good idea to live our lives more deliberately and purposefully. In the matter of government, Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary.” Think hard about that statement: the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. Forethought, discussion, and wise decision-making must take precedence over moods and fads and impulses of the moment.
If the above is true of a nation, is it any less true of an individual? If our society can’t get by without weighing all the sides of our national issues, can we personally survive if we don’t know how to weigh the pros and cons of our own issues? If our culture can’t get by without a healthy measure of intention and purposefulness, can any of us get by privately without thinking and deliberating? Haphazard, unintentional living has never taken anyone to a good place.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately” (Henry David Thoreau).