Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Multiple Choice

Now and again, I get asked about why I've spent all this time studying something I hope I don't ever have to use, i.e., martial arts. 

Leave out the fun aspects of it–the social stuff, the exercise, the sense of accomplishment and like that; just consider that it offers a choice–about which I'll speak more a bit later.

Usually, I just point out it's like insurance–you don't want to get in a wreck or have your house burn down or get sick, but any of those things happen, that's why you bought insurance. You can pay a lot of premiums for a long time and only need the coverage once to earn out and then some.

How good the policy is? Different question, but I'm happy with it, else I wouldn't be doing it. Those folks who don't agree with my path, no problem. I'm not asking them to walk it. 

Let's speak here about the notion of choice; of options.

Most people with whom I've discussed this like to have more than one option most of the time. Coke or Pepsi; action movie or chick flick; Packers or Steelers; the Devil or the deep blue sea; none of the above. Having a choice engenders a sense of psychological well-being that is good for one's self-esteem. One of the things you learn about raising children is that giving them a choice, even when it's not much of one–When it's bedtime on a school night, sometimes, You want to go to bed now? Or five minutes from now?–is all they get, but at least they have some small sense of control. 

There is so much in life that we cannot control. So many things for which choice doesn't come into. War in the Middle East? Can't fix that. Oil spill? Whaddya gonna do? Car runs a stop sign and plows into you? Given your druthers, probably you'd have selected something else for those menu items.

So, in those instances whereupon you can decide, then giving yourself options is more often than not a good thing.

When the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail; if you don't have a hammer, then a nail looks like a bigger problem. 

There's an old saw about violence, and several variations on the saying, but the essence is this: a pacifist has less choice than a fighter. True enough that earlier, the pacifist made a choice to go down that road, but having done so, his or her path is narrowed somewhat.

Too many choices can stall you out. I've walked into Powell's Books a couple of times and after an hour wandering around, couldn't find anything I wanted to buy.

Really? With six million to choose from?

Precisely because of that. Too much can overwhelm your senses.

However, when you can, having two or three or maybe four choices can be empowering, and worth some effort to get them.