Beech tree canopy in forest

Freedom, responsibility & choice

In this world full of choices, where exactly do we stand? Are we the ones making choices, having choices made for us, or simply feeling the impacts of choices happening around us? The Western world, in particular, seems to be where a lot of choice is being offered – every single aspect of our lives apparently involving a whole raft of options for us to choose between. What are we making of it all?

Conceivably, it’s a pretty large burden: having to make so many decisions each day can’t be easy on the brain. Deciding between seemingly never-ending variations of quite similar things is perhaps a strange way to be using our minds; and it seems a little questionable where it might lead (Notes One). The chopping and changing between which options we prefer – plus, all the new ones arriving each day – could take up a lot of time.

Then there’s the way all these choices add up. There are presumably huge piles of discarded options somewhere on this planet: all the things we thought we wanted but didn’t; all that others thought we might want, but we didn’t; all we have to get rid of to make space for all the new things we now want. In every way, the fact we face so many choices must multiply up the consequences of all this.

We might, then, be enjoying the freedom of all this choice, but how responsible are we actually being here? If each thing we choose is but one option among many, do we then need multiple versions of each item to satisfy ourselves? Once we’ve made any decision, it almost seems inevitable we’d be thinking of all the options we didn’t choose – wishing we could have them as well.

Modern life seems strange in that we clearly love novelty – there seems an endless demand for more, newer or simply different options by which we might define ourselves or mark the passage of time. The human psyche apparently has an effortless appreciation for variation, beauty and innovation. Which is great, in many ways, but where will it end? (Notes Two)

While this applies quite clearly to the realm of “goods”, how much is it also relevant elsewhere? Flitting between one thing and the next, it sometimes seems we’re losing the capacity to focus on any one thing. Or, to comprehend the consequences of it all. Each thing passes in front of us, catching our eye and drawing up a response, and then it’s simply onto another. As soon as anything’s chosen it risks becoming redundant.

Given we live in a world of finite space, resources and time, how are we choosing to spend it all? How much that might really matter are we potentially losing sight of while distracted by the beauty of choice or burden of managing it? How many situations are we contributing to through all these choices? Creating ripples that become serious problems elsewhere. How responsible are we being with all this freedom we’re offered?

Notes and References:

Note 1: “Paradox of Choice”
Note 1: “Brave New World Revisited”
Note 1: The insatiable desire for more
Note 1: Is this the ultimate test?
Note 2: Detaching from the world around us
Note 2: What if solutions aren’t solutions?
Note 2: Meaning in a world of novelty
Note 2: What we create by patterns of behaviour
Note 2: Making ends meet

Thinking about all these things was also the focus of Too much responsibility?

Ways to share this: