By Rachel Gan
Alice came to a fork in the road. “Which road do I take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire Cat.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the Cat, “it doesn’t matter.”
– Alice in Wonderland
Choice is overrated. The modern person prides themselves on an abundance of options, as variety is what defines the mental image of wealth. The freedom to choose is an emblem of power, rather than it’s reality, which is a psychological enslavement to ideas about fate and inevitabilities of circumstance. Rather than liberating us, the proliferation of choice induces a paralysis in indecision.
We all want to make the “right” decision. We’re trained to think there is a “right” decision to make, whether it’s religious doctrine or social conditioning or simply “making our parents proud.” There is “right” and it exists as the collective opinion of those around us. For all we really know, when we’re making the “right” choice, we’re serving someone else, or keeping ourselves farther from our intended goal so consumerism thrives and fear prevails.
Imagine a meal. There are sides, different breads, different meats, different drinks. In math, we understand that this is calculated in permutations and combinations, another option increases possibility exponentially. So we delay, we postpone, we renegotiate thoughts and plans and weigh every minute facet of every permutation. We draw up lists, complicated tables and percentage preferences and we try and try, we try to get as close as possible, to choose right.
This is what happens when we choose. We are excited. We are afraid. In stories, you always hear the “fairy tale,” the “happily ever after,” which is the epitome of “the right choice.”
In the process of seeking it, we contort reality. We forget, or rather choose to overlook, ordinary people and ordinary feelings.
With more options, the opportunity cost is greater, you have more to lose. And so you lose that great sense of satisfaction in deciding. Because there can never be the right decision. The ball drops, there is no right choice all there will be are the alternative realities that will haunt you. every path not taken is the birth of regret.
We mask it behind exhilaration and speculation, attribute it to coincidence and fate. But the adrenaline rush, that fine line between excitement and terror that gives us butterflies on roller coasters is not a line at all. we are never truly definitely in one state or another but in a constant flux between anticipation and utter panic.
So when we choose, we don’t actually choose because we don’t actually know. We don’t know anything. We don’t know if this is the right choice, if this will lead to something if anything, if this will be different, if this will be better. There is nothing inherent in the choices that necessarily guarantee the result of an expectation. We do not know. We do not know what we do not know. We live in a stasis of fear, where we are paralyzed by doubt.
It is how we live with this fear, in spite of this fear, that will determine – how we choose.