Saturday, November 07, 2009

Living in a world of choices

We live in a country of overwhelming choices. I'm sure that you are not surprised by this fact. Anyone who walks into a grocery store could spend ten minutes trying to decide which cereal to buy. Even a trip to the magazine aisle in one small corner of that same grocery store could take up an astonishing amount of your time--and that is only if you wanted to pick between the many, many magazines on wedding dresses or body building.

Normally, we are glad of all of these choices. Or at least we don't think about them all that often because we have spent time learning which of the options we like and which ones we don't. Or maybe our childhood experiences led us to believe that Jif peanut butter was far superior to Skippy, so why bother dithering over one or the other. In the same way, we know that we like Kellogg's cereal and so we walk past all the stuff from General Mills--unless we happen to have a coupon or something.

But what if we actively choose to limit ourselves in ways outside the ordinary? What if we take our normal preferences and narrow the focus even farther? Suddenly, we become aware of the vast number of riches around us. Suddenly we realize how much we take for granted and maybe . . . just maybe we think about the amazing hardships that some experience every day, in ways that we don't fully appreciate.

You might know that I have been involved in a Soup for a Year challenge--something that I have concocted with friends from work. You can read about it over on the Soup for a Year blog that we are collaborating on. I noted on the initial post of this challenge that in the beginning I didn't think it would be that difficult to eat nothing but soup every day, for every meal. But, of course, once I limited myself to only soup, I realized the number of foods in my own home that I could not consider anymore. I am glad that I am not eating as much dessert and junky snacks as I usually did. But I find it hard to reject apples and toast and even a simple bowl of cereal or oatmeal.

But, if I can make this event into a small force for charitable donations for those people who don't get the opportunity to reject choices as I so often do, those people who would love to have the luxury of dithering over different types of cereal and ice cream at the grocery store . . . then that would make me feel good.


Sven Golly said...

You are treading on dangerously unpatriotic ground here, Bub, like those lunatics at the Coop (euphemism for 'socialism') who say "Live simply so that others may simply live."

jack thunder said...

The psychologist Barry Schwartz has an entire book about this---"The Paradox of Choice." And lots of other stuff has been written about it, like much of "Blink," which is about how the only way to be functional is to simplify our options. Soup will be your heuristic of the month.