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May 26, 2009

My Turn: Don't let chance decide your fate

This week's "My turn" column is by Douglas Exley, retired Gilbertsville-Mount Upton school superintendent.

"I can't choose a side. I have to know what I'm flipping for."

These were the feverish words spoken by the old store clerk to Anton Chigurh in a defining moment from Cormac McCarthy's riveting novel, "No Country for Old Men."

The scene underscores the central theme of his novels: the issue of fate and whether or not you have control over what happens to you.

Chigurh tells the old man to just pick a side of the coin he is flipping because it's been predetermined by fate what will happen to him.

The old man can't accept this and doesn't want to call one side or the other because he doesn't understand why he has to engage in the coin toss. He wants to believe you do have the power, or right, to choose what happens to you and why.

To Chigurh, however, whether you live or die is as simple as heads or tails.

When you decide to run out to the store late at night to get some ice cream and are nearly broadsided by an oncoming car, is it fate that the other person was there at that moment or was it your choice to make that drive in the first place?

There are countless decisions, minor and major, made by individuals every day that can be looked at to see on which side of the ledger they might fall.

As adults, we have many experiences that help guide us in making decisions and thereby assuming more control over our lives and what we choose to do or not.

As a function of age, young people do not have the same background of life experiences, and most are not as well-equipped to quickly make sound decisions day in and day out.

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