Unintended consequences

I spent a few days at the beach lately, enjoying the warm water and the rolling waves.  It was glorious.  As I was floating, I realized that I’d better take full advantage of the beach while I have a chance.  The oil spill in the gulf, it is feared, will affect our East Coast beaches in time.

That led me to think about the issue of unintended consequences.  I have no reason to think that BP wanted to wreak havoc in our waters.  I have no reason to think that they did this maliciously.  While they may have made some bad decisions that resulted in this disaster, their intent was not to destroy the oceans and beaches that we so enjoy and need.

No, it’s the unintended consequences that are plaguing us.  One action leads to another, that leads to another, that leads yet to another.  And before you know it, oil is gushing from the ocean floor — and it’s nearly impossible to stop it, catch it, or certainly to retrieve it once escaped.

We do this sort of thing as individuals, too, you know.  We say something brash or critical.  We don’t mean to wreak havoc, but our words, once released, can never be retrieved.  Cleanup is difficult.  We affect other people’s lives in ways we could never have imagined.

It’s important that we think ahead of today, ahead of this moment in time.  What we say this minute could have lasting implications.  What we do today could affect our lives and other people’s lives for years to come.  We may not be able to avoid some unintended consequences, but if we keep the longer view in mind, we might be more careful with what we say and do.

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