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- Added April 1st, 2017
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By Trish Patrick in All Sorts
what limits our choices; how can we make wise decisions and take the responsiblityCHOICES
Talking to my daughter in law about my dilemma
in choosing a topic for this article, I said how much easier it might be if I was offered a topic, or several topics from which to choose instead of the existing brief... 'write about anything you like, the choice is yours.' ' Well' said my dear, ever pragmatic daughter in law, 'There's your topic, The Freedom to Choose - can one have too much choice?' That certainly had possibilities...thank you Debbie!!!
A dictionary describes freedom as 'the power or right to think, to choose, to act and speak freely without fear of an undesirable outcome.'
Freedom of choice is probably the one aspect of freedom we consciously or unconsciously exercise every day of our lives. Our right to choose is enshrined in the democratic process, yet the questions 'Do we truly have as much choice as we think we have?' and 'How do we learn to make good choices?' are good questions to ask.
How do we learn to make good choices? In his book 'The Myth of Choice' Kent Green field writes...'To be a good thinker and a decent choice maker depends not only on the analytical and reflexive parts of the brain, but also on our emotional abilities.' These suggestions make it clear that the freedom to choose well is enormously complex and challenging, dependent on factors sometimes beyond our control. However, it doesn't stop us from being obsessed with our right to choose and have as much choice as possible. But is it possible to have too much choice? Can we be spoilt for choice? In my opinion, yes we can. Paradoxically, all those seemingly available choices can be something of an illusion. The fact is, we all have limitations of one sort or another. As a school leaver, I really, really wanted to be a police woman, so I applied...all 4' 11inches, 6 and half stone of me.... I was turned down...not big enough!!!! Back to the drawing board.
I remember learning very quickly when the kids were little, always to limit choices offered, otherwise paralysis set in and they were unable to make any choice at all. We as adults are pretty much the same. In my experience a profusion of choice can render a bunch of intelligent people unable to reach any sort of agreement. Limit the choices and it is more likely useful discussion will follow, resulting in consensus. The perception of unlimited choice can be an unrealistic taskmaster. My unlimited choice of topic is, in fact, limited by lack of knowledge, experience, and imagination. Major life choices are limited by biology, economics, culture, religion, geography to name a few.
Making WISE decisions is another challenge, requiring discernment, research, intelligence and common sense, which sadly doesn't seem all that common at times.
Having made choices, we then have to take responsibility for them and make the most of the consequences, intended or not. However, very often the choices we make are not really choices at all. If someone cannot find a home they can afford to rent, they have the choice of sleeping rough or going to a homeless shelter, or couch surfing. Not choices I would be wanting to have to make.
Does the term 'Hobson's choice' ring any bells? Those on the bottom of the life's ladder have very little choice in most of life's decisions. The further up the ladder one goes the more 'real' the choices.
Statistics tell us that it takes only two catastrophes in a person's life to find oneself on the bottom of the ladder. For some it may be one, perhaps redundancy or job loss. As a Workplace Chaplain, I witnessed these catastrophes. For a few the catasrophe turns out to be a blessing in disguise, but not all that often!!!
There is an election coming up and our responsibility is to go into this election informed, so we can choose who we want to represent the
values we cherish, remembering it is those on the bottom of the ladder who most intimately live with the consequences of the choices the country makes. Democracy is not without its flaws. Often we have to live with a choice that is not ours, and accept gracefully the will of the majority. It doesn't mean we have to like it.
This is the season of lent when Jesus chose a path he must have known would likely end in massive suffering. Last Sunday Greg reminded us about Wisdom (Sophia.) Jesus was a Rabbi, a teacher in the Wisdom tradition. He taught in parables, sacred stories and poems. But not only did he teach in this style, he 'turned it upside down' ( ' The Wisdom Jesus'...Cynthia Bourgeault ).
I wonder how informed his ultimate choice might have been? I'm pretty sure his disciples and his family must have considered him extremely unwise. Jesus himself had a wobbly moment in the garden where he prayed 'that this cup be taken from me...yet not my will but thine be done'. A choice that would have ghastly consequences.
People in war torn countries are being forced into making the painful choice of staying in their ravaged communities, risking hunger, poverty, imprisonment, torture and death, or choosing a dangerous journey to an unknown future. For some even that choice is beyond their reach. The Lampedusa Cross is a tangible symbol of death and life. It speaks of the agonisingly difficult choices the refugees have had to make for themselves and their families, all too often with fatal consequences.
Let's be thankful that, at least we live in a country where many of us still have the privilege of making choices. May the choices we make be life enhancing, influencing for good our lives and the lives of those around us.