Friday, July 16, 2010

Too Many Choices

I went to buy some milk from a supermarket in Manoa Valley, Hawaii when I lived there back in the day. There were more varieties of milk than I had ever seen or even heard of but I could not find 'ordinary' milk like I was able to buy at supermarkets in Australia. With so many different varieties of milk on offer, I felt confused. Many of those varieties are now available in Australia. If you want some milk you can choose from fresh, concentrated, long life (UHT) or powdered. If it's fresh milk you want you have the following options;regular full fat, reduced fat, low fat, skim, modified milk, ultrafiltration milk, lactose reduced, lactose free, buttermilk, fortified milk, or the kids favourite, flavoured milk. Am I boring you yet? I won't go on but it is good to have all these choices right?

Sometimes when I go to buy my regular brand of toothpaste it takes ages to find it amongst the plethora of competitors. Colgate is arguably the number one brand and they alone make over 30 different types of toothpaste, in different sized tubes and dispensers. How they differ from each other may be marginal but it is good to have so many to choose from, don't you think?

Even the humble chocolate bar presents confounding and conflicting alternatives. Once upon a time you could just ask for a Kit-Kat. Then we had the Chunky single finger version introduced which was followed by different flavour varieties. Thankfully, or sadly depending on your point of view, in Australia we have limited choices; dark chocolate, peppermint, caramel, cookies and cream. In Japan they have gone to extremes by offering around 40 different flavours. Worldwide there are over 80 varieties of Kit-Kat available for the pleasure of the chocolate loving consumer. Wonderful, isn't it?

Does all this choice enrich our lives or simply complicate them? With fewer options I would need less time to decide but I might get bored without the chance to try something new. With less to choose from I might miss out if I don't like anything in the range but does that really matter? If Nestle didn't offer me a Kit-Kat that I liked I could simply visit the Cadbury section and see how they might be able to satisfy me. Would it be so terrible if there were only two or three different types of chocolate to choose from instead of hundreds?

I know you think I'm a killjoy. The shine of life would be tarnished by limited choices, wouldn't it? Variety, they say, is the spice of life. Is that true, or does variety merely foster envy and greed? Does it spoil us and make it harder for us to find satisfaction? Does our experience of the exotic, cripple our appreciation for the ordinary? Are we actually becoming insatiable?

The answer is yes to the latter three questions but it probably would not be of any real consequence or concern if I was only talking about food. However, life is a series of choices. Some are important, some are trivial but almost all are necessary. I think life would be much simpler and easier if we had less choice. If there were only one or two types of toothpaste for example, I could like it or lump it but I wouldn't have to spend so much time searching and deciding.

The biggest choice any of us will ever have to make only presents two alternatives. A very clear cut decision between two options. Choose life with Jesus Christ or life without him. Considering the unimaginable benefits of life with Christ, this choice could not be more straightforward. No confusion. No disappointment. It's simple. Choose today.

Does having so many options to choose from enhance our lives?
It depends.
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