My dad sent me this really interesting review of a book about choice. The author of the book once conducted a study about jam options in the supermarket, which has apparently become somewhat iconoclastic in the world of...whatever world her study inhabits. So in an effort to make the study feel more like "hers" again, she has written this new book, waxing more philosophical about choice and asking more questions than she draws conclusions.

She brings up some thoughts I can definitely agree with. "More choice is not always better," she suggests, "but neither is less. The optimal amount of choice lies somewhere in between infinity and very little, and that optimum depends on context and culture."

I've found that I don't really like making choices, especially when it comes to big-ticket items. For example, I gave Hubby input as to what I wanted my engagement ring to look like, but I ultimately wanted him to pick. If I pick something out for myself, I will constantly second-guess it, but if someone else picks it out for me, I will sentimentally appreciate it for the rest of my life.

But that's petty.

The author then relates choice to religion. She says, "If keeping kosher or refraining from alcohol makes you feel constrained and helpless, you can abandon those strictures. The only people left in the restrictive groups are those who value the rules. In a modern, liberal society, religious observance does not “take away” choice. It is a choice."

I suppose I have chosen, by following Christ, to be a member of one of these "restrictive" groups. But as she suggests, it is somehow in these strictures that I manage to find freedom. I think it boils down to the direction in which you are pointing your life.

My friend S. and I once took a class on creativity. It was an Honors discussion class, and we went in circles and circles and circles during every class, hardly drawing any conclusions as to what creativity was or is. I felt mentally exhausted and frustrated after every class, because I wanted some ANSWERS. I remember walking toward the post office with her one day after class and discussing relativism. We decided it was exhausting. We decided having an ultimate Truth helps guide us so much. By taking away some of our options, it actually makes us feel more free, and definitely more confident in our choices.

The author of the book sort of ended up there, too. "Human beings, Iyengar suggests, are born to choose. But human beings are also born to create meaning. Choice and meaning are intertwined. We use choice to define our identities, and our choices are determined by the meanings we give them."

When life has a Meaning, every Choice means a little bit more.

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman