Saturday, 6 December 2008

The tyranny of choice

The criticism of my generation: we're kidults. We postpone responsibility indefinitely, and sit around playing games all day. I pondered this as I sat playing solitaire on the computer.

We* watched our parents' generation take the world seriously, and serve mammon so religiously that they lost their lives (in war or business: it made little difference, it seemed). Then we listened as they offered to us the world, with the commendation, "You can do whatever you want!" "You can be whoever you want to be!" "There are no limits - no class limits, no gender limitations, no job restrictions, no geographical ties: you choose!" Universal choice. Unlimited scope. It's crippling. Humans weren't designed each for universal choice, because with choice comes responsibility: being faced with unlimited freedom is being confronted with universal responsibility. And only One has born that: the Man Christ Jesus.

No wonder that at this time in which we may apparently do any career, and live however we like, the shelves are lined with self-help books, career advice books, 'turn your life around' book, 'making life-choices' books. No wonder we play games. In a game, there are rules to follow. It is a smaller universe, and we only have as many options as the makers of the game allowed. That we can cope with.

This doesn't excuse us as we 'play' away our lives. In Eden we only had one choice - and chose wrongly. But with family breakdown and the worship of independent autonomy giving a structureless, support-less society, it is no great thing to be told there are no, no limits.

This reflection doesn't come entirely from the fact I face decisions about the future in terms of work and situation, but that's the context in which I'm thinking. And other than knowing that God is sovereign (phew!), and that true freedom is found in serving the King, I'm still working on applying the gospel to this. It might come down to the cheesy but good saying of Elizabeth Elliot that my Mother taught me: Fear not tomorrows, child of the King: Trust them to Jesus, and do the next thing. (But what is that next thing when there's unlimited choice?) But in the meantime, how frightening is existentialism??

* I use 'we' generically. God blessed me with parents who rather than serving mammon religiously, have lost their lives for the sake of Jesus and his gospel, and thus found it.

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