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Sheena Iyengar takes us on the path of incredible self exploration during the long listening, in her seven chapters long audio book she has made a scholarly attempt to explore what is meant by choice, is choice a life defining idea a mere abstraction or a powerful tool to control our circumstances. The book covers discipline areas expanding into Psychology, Business, Economics, Medicine, Religion, Sociology and Philosophy and is useful listening for general audiences.
What will one do if stuck in the sea on wreckage faced with the only hard choice of staying alive? Most of us in the comfort of our homes will consider this question highly irrelevant. But the truth is no matter where we are we are like the sea drifters faced with everyday survival challenges. The incredible story of Feb 1982, when Steven Callahan aged 30 was caught up in the sea on raft for 76 days. He survived because of his perception of having choices, by not letting himself being controlled by the circumstances. Instead of living in fear and anxiety he made a spear for fishing, collected rain water for drinking, ate barnacle, to maintain his sanity he took notes, did yoga waited and was adrift in hope and optimism for a record number of days alone in a raging sea. It was a mere choice. Are we like rates in water jar swimming endlessly to survive? The answer is yes like some rates we choose to swim for days without succumbing but like some we try not to choose the path of survival and decide not to swim.
Some people believe they have more choices in response to certain situations therefore choose optimism against helplessness. Choice in a personal sense means exercising control over circumstances or rather having a perception of control where responses can be adjusted. A study was conducted for lower and higher grade employees in the Whitehouse over the perception of control in world affairs. Higher grade employees believed they have more choices than lower grade employees hence were more optimistic about their personal roles.
We teach our children to aim high, go after your dreams, and owe the places you go to, have a mission in life, and choose with responsibility. A choice for our children's education is also one of the most significant judgments with life long consequences. Philosopher Emerson's idea of liberal education as a form of self-reliance, open dialogue, less peer pressure and friendly faculty will certainly result in affiliating with liberal philosophy in later life. Students going through similar education will tend to vote more for democrat in subsequent years; their political beliefs will be affected by the kind of college they attend especially in the United States.
Medical Paternalism verses patients autonomy is a much debated issue. Detail of a case study over an infant who is prematurely born with no hope of normal life. Parents are pressed hard by the choice of stopping treatment or continuing the endless life in coma. Is suffering equal to death? Most Americans are faced with choices of living with elderly people about 4.5 million suffering from Alzheimer's disease, cancer and Parkinson. Almost all of them have to choose between life and death everyday and making decision for their loved ones. It is more of a balancing act than a yes or no when one is faced with hard medical choices for the elderly in such cases.
Susanne and Dane's infant baby Babra was born with brain damage and in critical condition of coma. After speaking to the doctor both parents decided to stop treatment. The months that followed were difficult for the couple full of grief and regrets. Interview with similar parents in France and America came up with surprising variation. Many French believe in the inevitability of such events and minimum personal responsibility but American parents focused on what could have been done differently. French didn't blame themselves and reflected positively on the event. American parents wondered and asked question full of What Ifs? We want choices in health care and more likely to be averse to restrictions.
Shakespeare's Hamlet has the famous saying to choose and not to choose, a father forbad his son from reading books on Shakespeare. The books were only reserved for daddy he was told, as a result the young son developed deep interest in classics which is an example of how reverse Psychology work on us; the Psychology of the forbidden fruit and the complexity of our choices in life.
In the Trojan War Odysseus embarked on his journey that took many years, he has to fight monsters, rested boats on rocky coast. Odysseus project was to hear the song of the bees from the other world for which he endured all this self punishment. We are like him at times acting against our better judgment by succumbing to temptations. Indulge in procrastination and choosing not to exercise or eat the prescribed special diet. Like Odysseus we put ourselves to lashes later on over such regrets. We pay emotionally for our choices. Every choice can leave us anxious but we must not stop exploring fresh choices and new avenues in life. To choose is to select a tailor-made future, to make a commitment; choices are mystical and spiritual as well as pragmatic in nature.
Is suicide a choice? There is an incredible story of an accomplished old poet who wrote a novel about late age, dying and death acceptance. She committed suicide in great dignity, made meticulous plans and left a note saying I wanted such an end. If life has worth, dying voluntarily is a very complex judgment. Suicide for her was a spiritual choice and not a mere anxiety or lack of choices in life? Even in death we are not bounded rolling the large stone of Sisyphus to the top of the mountain, we have choices even then.
© 2010 Samin Khan
Samin Khan, Philosophy Lecturer, Higher Education Ministry, PakistanThis review is dedicated to Mrs. Farah Hamid the Secretary Education Higher Education for her struggle to reform education in KPK.