A Healthy Ascent

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…”                     Deuteronomy 30:19b


When we regularly navigated the labyrinthine transportation system of Tokyo comprised of trains, subways, monorails and buses, we were faced with a frequent choice: take the stairs or the escalator. We seemed to be always going either up or down as we traversed the Tokyo underground, scurrying to make our connections. The stairs are obviously the healthier choice and some stairways are even clearly numbered with the amount of calories one burns with each step as a clever attempt to promote more exercise. However, escalators are generally quicker and require minimal effort so they are usually the more attractive option for most commuters.

Japanese escalator etiquette gives one further choices as users are expected to obediently stand on the left side of the escalator as it goes up so others in a hurry can climb unimpeded on the right side. However, this unwritten rule is only true for East Japan, as inexplicably, escalator users in West Japan dutifully stand on the opposite side. But now this standard practice of escalator manners is being called into question with an increase of accidents and injuries. New public campaigns are currently instructing users to simply stand still and hold onto the rail after boarding the escalator. If the previous combination of riding/climbing comes to an end, we may have to reconsider our choice in the stairs versus escalator dilemma and take the slower, but healthier, stairs alternative.

As we all know, life is routinely full of choices and they are usually of a much weightier nature than Japan’s stairs versus escalator quandary. Moses spoke of such decisions at the end of his life when he summoned the nation of Israel one final time before his impending death. After reviewing their poor choices in the past that led to disastrous consequences, Moses exhorted the people of God to reflect on such things and from that moment forward, to choose life over death. Such crucial decisions can unwittingly incur the wrath of God or in contrast, invite His blessing, which is what we truly desire. Therefore, Moses entreated them to “choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord your God is life.” That is indeed a healthy choice.

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