Everyone likes choice, apparently, but can too many possibilities unnerve us? Lorne Daniel explores.
The possibilities perplex me.
I have a few hours available – a little clearing. I’ve snacked my way through the morning and early afternoon while chasing the usual scatter gun of emails and Tweets and blog posts – edited or read. Piecemeal. Pieces. I could use something substantial. Some soup. A colourful crunchy salad. Vibrant nutrition.
I’ll stroll down to Bubby Rose’s, or maybe Tooks on Cook across the street where they do varied entrees cafeteria style. I’ll stroll, yes. No rush.
Take the travel mug in case I decide to grab a java and window shop. Might as well sling the backpack over my shoulder, throw the mug in an outside pocket. Grab some gloves and a toque. It’s winter.
Maybe the camera, too, just in case an image jumps out at me.
My journal and a pen would be a good idea. Make some notes. And those two envelopes I need to mail. There are many possibilities in one casual afternoon walk.
For this couple hours in this afternoon, I am wandering free. Yet not free from decisions or free from questions. The questions abound. How many thousands of little decisions do I make in a day?
I make my way up Trutch, over to Cook, west on Richardson. I’ll swing across the street mid-block, but there’s traffic. Not heavy. All from the east. Between these two? Or after that white van? Sometimes I dither. Indecisive agitation.
The world is a cosmos of infinite choices. We want freedom in our lives but are easily paralyzed by choice.
Barry Schwartz writes about this in The Paradox of Choice: why less is more. Consider the box of chocolates – do you want a large box from which to choose your chocolate, or a smaller box? Research shows we are actually happier with our chocolate when we have chosen from the smaller box. The large box just leads us to agonize over our options: dark, milk, white, striped, round, square, nut-topped. It can drive a person nutty.
I spot a red Canada Post box across Cook, consider crossing this way then that, pick a spot in the traffic, make my way over, drop the letters in. So now I’m on the Bubby Rose side of Cook and try to recall their menu, wonder about today’s specials. Great pastries but do they do much green? A few strides away I instinctively pat my hip pocket: no wallet. Left it behind. Brought the gloves, the camera, the journal, the letters, all for their possibilities. No wallet. Well, I’m not turning around and racing back for it. This was to be a leisurely amble, not a rushed scramble.
Now my lunch possibilities depend on the jingle of change in my front pocket. I count a bit over two bucks. I peak in Bubby Rose’s but aside from water and a pastry I don’t think my change is getting me far. So it’s across to Tooks, where I find a substantial looking banana bread and a regular coffee. No green but I had no choice. I find a big round table by the window, pull out the journal and camera and start recording. Bubby Rose’s across the way, with its bright tattoo shop next door, is quite the picture. The graphic art on its block walls has pushed aside my thoughts of lively salads and soups. Greens. Bursts of orange. Pinks and yellows. A bee. A buzz.
Full of possibilities.
“Graphic Mural-Cook Street in Victoria, BC” © Lorne Daniel 2011. All Rights Reserved.
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