Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Choices, Choices Everywhere....

Once, in the dark times of long ago, "choice" was a luxury, a luxury that not too many people had. Where you lived was pretty much decided for you as an accident of birth. What you ate was proscribed by where you lived; fresh vegetables and fruits were limited to spring and summer with few exceptions. Meat was eaten when you found game to kill, or when a sheep became too old to produce milk any longer. What your profession was going to be was also pretty much decided beforehand; most boys apprenticed with their fathers and entered their fathers' professions. If your father was a cow herder, you were going to be a cow herder. Or perhaps if your father in law was a vintner, you would be a vintner. And life was good, and people were mostly contented.

Fast forward to now. The problem is not that there are no choices available but that there are too many choices available. Making a decision about what to choose can be paralyzing to some people. They worry incessantly that if they choose X then they can't have Y and what if Y would have been the better choice? Or Z? There is discontent when you have this worry. There is a feeling for some that they are "settling" rather than choosing freely. They constantly flit from place to place, from item to item, always looking for that elusive one thing that will bring them complete happiness and contentment.

New York and its surrounding area is very much like the situation described above. For Jews, there are lots of schools to choose from, lots of stores to shop in, lots of shuls to choose from, lots of restaurants to choose from. Whatever you are possibly looking for as relates to Yiddishkeit, you have a huge choice to select from here. And yet, New York is not a contented place, not for its frum citizenry. No sooner does someone make a choice here then they already have growing a seed that says "look further, choose again." They look and see others making different choices and this doesn't always sit well. Either they wonder if their own choice was really the right choice and perhaps that other person made the better choice, or they feel the other person is a fool for having made the choice he/she did.

Sometimes having a choice can be a good thing; other times having too many choices can lead to discontent, to overspending, to kinah. It seems to be really true that sometimes "less is more."


Allen said...

Too many choices certainly leads to consumerism run amok. We buy not because we need something or even sometimes because we want something but because it's there or because someone else has purchased it so we don't want to be left out and buy it too.

And yes you are right that kinoh can drive the choosing and choosing. We don't care sometimes about the things we choose but if someone else has them then it's unfair that we don't and how dare they have those things and off we go and get them for ourselves.

It's not limited to frum Jews. It's society in general that keeps looking at what others have. But the manufacturers count on that part of human nature. If we didn't envy others their possessions how could they possibly turn a profit?

Mordy Ovits said...

Have you read The Paradox of Choice?

Shmendrik said...

"And life was good, and people were mostly contented."

Nonsense. Life was nasty, brutish, and short.

zaramart said...

The chochma is to have all the choices but have strong values and faith and know to make the right choice.