You formed me in my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.
Ian and I like to watch movies. We watch one almost every night, sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with my family. We bond that way, sitting together and later quoting amusing bits back to each other, a private vocabulary of half-finished phrases (Big McLarge Huge! Hahahaha). Our greatest challenge occurs when the time comes to choose a movie. We stand before our parents’ DVD collections and ask each other, “What do you feel like watching?” “I have no idea. What do you feel like?” This extremely tedious process can continue for up to an hour, occasionally punctuated by somebody taking a video down and reading the back. The other person, however, will invariably have seen that movie at least sixty times before, rendering him/her incapable of watching it yet again.
So we have developed a compromise that, if it doesn’t please one of us, leaves us at least equally dissatisfied. Our compromise is this: one person picks tolerable three movies. The other person must choose the most appealing among those three, or else offer three alternative movies to the other person. Interestingly, once somebody narrows the choices down to A, B, or C, neither of us has much trouble choosing. It means much less to waffle over three as opposed to fifty. Generally we both end up satisfied.
This makes me wonder: would we as a population live happier, less stressful lives if we only had a few choices for everything? If you could choose between just crunchy and creamy, not the five competing brands (one of which tastes like sugar with a few peanut, and another of which claims to crush its organic peanuts with a stone pulled by free-range oxen), would you leave the store happier? If you needed tortillas and so bought the only tortilla avaliable, would that leave you a little more peace of mind than being forced to choose among the low-carb, the wheat, the corn, the small, medium, and large, the Mexican-style, and so forth? I am confident that on my deathbed I will look back on the hours I spent agonizing over which Muesli to buy – the $5-a-box organic or the $3-a-box store brand? – and wish that the grocery store had only carried on type of Muesli. Not only for grocery stores, though, but for everything, we have more choices than we know what to do with. What kind of MP3 player do you want – the 4 gig iPod Mini? The competing Creative Zen? The full-sized iPod? How many gigs of memory do you need? – what kind of car do you buy – what kind of abode do you live in – what kind of shoes do you wear – what kind of haircut do you sport – what kind of makeup (if any) adorns your glowing visage – what kind of furniture do you buy – what kind of utensil do you write with – what kind of exercise do you prefer – what job do you work at – what computer do you use – what do you use to transport yourself to and fro – what kind of camera do you buy – what do you take pictures of – do you print digital pictures, and if so, at home or in a stor? and if in a store, what store? – what kind of pet do you have, and if you say dog, what breed?
The choices boggle my mind, yet I could continue endlessly. I feel confident that you, my dear reader, can add to my list a vast collection of choices you have to make every day. But just because we can buy fifteen different types of cars, or one type of car from six different dealers (all of whom will naturally give you the best deal), does that mean we live fuller lives? Do these choices improve us or just leave us mired in a quandry of indecision? How many arbitrary, meaningless choices do you have to make in one day? Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for choices. Choices mean we live in a free country where capitalism and enterprise thrive, where competition weeds out the crappy and leaves the strong (or ruthless? Either way, it’s the ones with the best lawyers) standing. Choice means diversity, gaining strength by accepting those different from yourself, and stretching your realm of experiences, and I’m all for that. I’m not all for pointless choices, the ones where you have to pick between store-brand or name-brand. Or among sleazy car dealers, all of whom you know will rip you off for as much as they can.
In the end, I choose this: to slough off as much of these choices as I can, to choose wisely where I must make a choice, and most of all to live simply, that others might simply live.