As a writer, I find that it is often best to let ideas lie fallow for a while. More ideas come, and somewhere, somehow, they coalesce into a theme. And then I have something to write about. Today’s theme is choice.
Choice, the opportunity to favor one thing over another. We are a choosy people, at least most of us are. But we have not always had that luxury, and indeed, it is doubtful that many people view it as a luxury. Rather it is seen as a human prerogative, something that is given.
We need not look far to discover that it was not always so. In our history, we need not travel far back to see that most people were largely without choice. They were born into castes, either created or artificially lived in. The rich have and always had more choices than the poor. In ancient times, there was less choice. One, as a child, knew pretty much what to expect in life, based on gender, wealth, and location. It bears some thought as to how this would feel.
Perhaps given our choicier life, we are more prone to mistakes than we were historically. That seems likely. Think of not having a choice about whom you might marry, where you will live, what work you will do, what you will eat most every day, and so forth. The less choice, the fewer errors that can occur.
There was, I would suggest no choice in believing in the gods at one point. In fact there was little choice in that sense up through at least the Inquisition. One believed because everyone did. Today, we have the choice, and there are logical and good reasons for whatever choice one makes, however much one might think their choice is the best or only realistic one.
Part of non-dualistic thinking, a good thing whether you consider yourself a believer or not, is a refusal to yield to the temptation of choosing too quickly. We are asked to let things be, listen, collect, remaining open to change, jealously guarding our objectivity, such as that is. Choices can come later.
But look how hard that is. Virtually every new idea comes loaded with baggage. We are immediately tempted to categorize it somewhere, keep the room neat, find its box, and stick it in. Our minds, without our direction, compare, contrast, and filter the new information with all the information at hand, and we label, and then file it appropriately. The devil with trying to hold concepts without judgment. It’s all just too hard.
Which gets me to the point of this. The point is, we don’t spend time every day, sifting through the new information and letting ourselves wonder. Wonder without resolution. Just letting stuff simmer, until it finds its place. Often it needs to await further information, we must be patient. We must resist the temptation to open the file cabinet. We must keep our basket of “still thinking about” quite full.
The ego likes answers, and we are so prone to choosing. And years later, months later, days later, we rue the choice, wishing we could do it again, knowing what we know now. Could we have known then? Perhaps, perhaps not, but we deep down know we didn’t really think it through.
Case in point. One that rankles me no end. The Olympics has many fine athletes from many countries. But the politicization of the games is a dirty rather badly kept secret. We are obsessed with the “medal count” as if this should matter one whit. Bragging rights are important how?
Worse, countries that are small and unable to field a team are hungry wolves on the prowl for talent they can buy. And there is plenty of talent out there ready to be bought it seems. Two cases have been talked about, both in skating. One woman, a Japanese pairs skater, has taken on Russian citizenship, to skate with her Russian partner for Russia. Another, an American from Michigan is taking on Georgian citizenship in order to skate with her Georgian partner for Georgia.
I wonder has either woman thought this through? One gives up a democratic state to call home a repressive dictatorship (for surely that is what Russia seems bent on returning to). Another gives up the most prosperous nation of democratic ideals to call home a struggling new country, freeing itself into a democratic mode of life.
No doubt these women have explored some consequences. I guess they feel confident that neither the Japanese or American governments will be cancelling their “visas” and sending them packing to their new countries. That might be a shocking and unhappy event were it to happen. But I wonder, have they thought about how this plays out down the road? What it might mean for them in twenty years? I don’t know the answers, but I rather doubt they have. They are caught up in their youth and their desire to be “stars” in their field of endeavor.
As globalization continues at a whirlwind pace, more and more people will have greater and greater freedom to choose. Yet our choices will have global repercussions to ourselves and our world, some of which we may naively ignore. Are we evolutionarily equipped for this? Has anyone even recognized that we need a whole new set of skills to negotiate this terrain? Is anyone teaching our children these skills?