Friday, June 19, 2009

Freedom from Choice -- Writer's Poke #237

As careful readers of my blog will recall, as an undergraduate in college I wrote a poem called "Zugzwang und Zwischen." This was the first time that I explored the idea that freedom from choice could be beneficial.

It's surprising what you find out about yourself when you spend a lot of time writing. I'm not sure I would have ever expressed that belief had I not written a poem about it. But give it some thought and see if it doesn't make some sense. Isn't it true that most of us sacrifice choices in our lives? Why on earth would we do that, unless we expected to receive some sort of benefit?

Example: most of us marry, and for most people, marriage is a contract between two people -- you "forsake all others." In other words, you give up choices, yes? And at least initially, most people find value in the institution of marriage, yes? Now, we can quibble over how high the divorce rate is, how many people cheat on their spouses, etc. But just take the state of marriage as an ideal. No doubt about it: marriage provides a certain kind of freedom.

Here's a quick experiment from psychology that you might find interesting: Researches went to a grocery store and set up two display tables. One table offered customers six flavors of jelly to taste. A second table offered twenty-four different kinds of jelly. Not surprisingly, customers bought more jelly from the table that offered fewer taste options. Apparently too many choices makes it impossible for us to reach a decision.

Describe a time when you found it liberating not to have a choice.

"If you're a sports fan you realize that when you meet somebody, like a girlfriend, they kind of have to root for your team. They don't have a choice." -- Jimmy Fallon


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