Choice; Understanding Why We Can Have It All

Yesterday I attempted to write an article about an island hopping trip I took however, after trying to write the actual piece of work, I came to the all too troublesome realization that I was, in fact, unable to do so. That being said, I am no longer going to try to talk about the four islands I visited (Bong Nguyen island, Moon island, Mini Beach, and a fisherman’s village) and how much fun the trip was (specifically, a lot of fun) and am going to try to talk about the topic of the people I meet on a daily basis. Or rather, the topic of television and its influences on our lives. Or perhaps the topic of perfection and its root, or music, or fashion, or travel, or anything really because when it all really comes down to it, everything we do is a matter of choice. What we eat, what we drink, which movies we watch, which television programs we mock, and who we root for all comes down to a matter of choice and choosing an option.

However, this is all fairly obvious, and to anyone who’s ever been presented with two options, they know quite clearly what choice is and what it extends to. Though my concern isn’t the concept of free will (which is almost nonexistent when we take into consideration that every choice we make is a reflection of the choices of the others) but why (when faced with a so-called option) we are forced to abandon one possible choice in favour of another. Take, for example, a restaurant setting where one decides on ordering a sandwich (thereby already having made a choice), once the waitress (or waiter, either one really) appears, they reveal that in addition to the sandwich, a further option of soup or salad is also present. In this scenario, one is forced to order either a soup, or a salad where one option will be delivered with the sandwich, and the other will be ignored (thereby invalidating it to a sort of food like limbo state until someone else orders it) and rejected. However, in the example above, the waitress (or waiter) doesn’t reveal the third option of choosing both (because that would place an extra cost on the meal) or even the fourth option of choosing neither (thereby reducing the cost of the meal, or maintaining the cost, where the individual who ordered is forced to pay more for just a sandwich, instead of a sandwich and a side) because to her (or him) these choices wouldn’t make sense based on the context of the question, because why would an individual choose nothing when something is expected to be delivered? Moreover, if there is no singular sandwich option, it wouldn’t make sense to pay more for one thing when two things can be provided. However, once one takes into consideration the various possibilities, the question of “Soup or salad?” is rendered almost redundant, as the true number of options is almost limitless.

Which moves us forward to the next point: when everything is considered, there are always more or less options present than the ones provided to us; though doing nothing is also always an option. In a Penny Arcade webcomic (specifically, this one here) Grand Theft Auto is deemed paralyzing (not because of its content) because when faced with the option of doing something in a world where one can do anything, eliminating the remaining amount of options leaves one of the characters to doing nothing (thereby eliminating every possible option and thereby rejecting none). However, despite this fact (or perhaps because of it), the webcomic reveals that even though one is tasked with doing something, they are still entirely capable of doing something and nothing at the same time, by doing absolutely nothing (because doing nothing invalidates the concept of having a choice; instead of leaving one thing out, everything is left out, which means that everything is equally rejected thereby making sure that nothing is truly rejected). In the same webcomic, the option of doing everything is also considered, though, unlike Grand Theft Auto, Baskin Robbins is used as the corollary, where there are actually 33 possible flavours to choose from (each of the 32 flavours, eating nothing, and trying each flavour). However, if one actually counted the possible combinations, based on an infinite number of scoop combinations the total choices one would have would be near infinite.

This, incidentally, leads to the next point: there is always another choice even if it looks like there are none, because the truth of it is that there are almost no scenarios in existence where one has “No choice” to do something. I remember once discussing the “Action movie logic” (that all action heroes must go through, where they are faced with a decision to make) with a group of friends. If a hero declares that there is no choice, this is absolutely and utterly inaccurate because the truth is that they do, in fact, have a choice. That one choice, however, is most likely not the morally acceptable one and, therefore, is the “Wrong” decision because they are heroes and heroes are, for all intents and purposes, good. Which is why action movies operate on the “Most lives saved” method of thinking; the possible choices are everything, nothing, or the one that saves the most lives. The fact remains, however, that our lives are not action movies and that under any circumstance, there is always a choice present that is not listed (for example, instead of soup or salad, why not go for mashed potatoes? Though the most interesting part is that even with the soup or salad paradigm, there are even more options one must cycle through before the discussion is laid to rest. No one will present you with an option of soup or salad and not provide a series of flavours, dressings, and broths to choose from) and one must consider moving past this single minded way of thinking to overcome a set of difficulties.

Though, I suppose I should mention that this is all can seem incredibly ideological (and to the vast majority of those being faced with tough times, it is) because we tend to think like action heroes; with a sense of “Most lives saved” or “Most money earned” or “Nicest car driven” or even “Largest house bought.” If one attempts to open their mind and consider other options, they are usually left to try to figure out which one is the one with the lowest possible set of failures and the one that provides to greatest set of successes; once again, trying to figure out whether they want soup or salad when in all reality they want both. This, finally, is the exact problem with trying to operate on movie logic in the “Real world;” there is always a third option available because one event does not correlate a trend (and the sooner we understand this, the better it will be). Though, before I do conclude, I’d like to bring up one final point: compromise only becomes sacrifice once you believe that you’re the loser, and that something has been lost instead of gained. This is why the “All or nothing; Glory or death” state of thinking comes from. We believe that we can’t have it all, when in reality we more than definitely can, so long as we stop trying to pick between two.

As always, this has been your Admin; comment and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


    • Shawn
    • August 11th, 2011

    I always order respond “neither” when asked if I want soup or salad. lol

    • Me too , though I sometimes ask for both just to see what happens. Not fair; the best is when you ask for something completely different “Could I have a portion of steamed broccoli instead?” The looks on their faces are ALWAYS priceless.

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