Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Boreham on Decision-Making

We have all known the torture of indecision. To buy or not to buy? To accept or to decline? To go or to stay? To turn this way or that? It is dreadful! Now, the question is: Are we justified, in our seasons of perplexity, in expecting to hear a guiding voice, or to discern a shining light, or to see a beckoning hand ? Must we plunge into the gloom, or may we follow the gleam? Is there a Kindly Light that leads?

If we reply in the negative, a hundred exceeding great and precious promises become instantly unintelligible, and, in consequence, all Scripture falls under suspicion of being disingenuous and insincere. And yet, on the other hand, it is so difficult, in our distraction, to hear that voice, to discern that light, to see that beckoning hand.

Think of that memorable day in the life of Goethe. ‘A delicious sadness subdued his thoughts,’ his biographer tells us, ‘as he wandered dreamily along the banks of the Lahn. The lovely scenes which met his eye solicited his pencil, awakening once more the ineffectual desire, which from time to time haunted him, of becoming a painter. The desire, often suppressed, now rose up in such serious shape that he resolved to settle for ever whether he should devote himself to art or not.

The test was curious. The river glided beneath, now flashing in the sunlight, now partially concealed by willows. Taking a knife from his pocket, he flung it with his left hand into the river, having previously resolved that, if he saw it fall, he was to become an artist; but if the sinking knife was concealed by the willows, he was to abandon the idea. No ancient oracle was ever more ambiguous than the answer now given him. The willows concealed the sinking knife; but the water splashed up like a fountain, and was distinctly visible. So indefinite an answer left him still in doubt.’

It is thus that our wayward will-o'-the-wisps torment us. There must be a more excellent way. There is! [FWB writes about this in the rest of his essay]

F W Boreham, ‘Lead, Kindly Light’, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles Kelly, 1914), 50-51.

Image: “Taking a knife from his pocket, he flung it…”