Dying Daily #13: Choosing Against Choice

I remember saving up my money for a few months to get a Walkman because I saw an older kid with one. I would daydream about how cool I would look, walking around town listening to my music. How awesome it would be when an older kid asked what I was listening to and realized I was a pretty rad little kid because I was rocking Def Leppard or Motley Crue. I pictured riding my bike, weaving in and out of traffic, Skid Row blaring over the sound of honking horns. It was going to be the best thing ever.

After many months, I got my Walkman.

And it was everything it promised to be.

I ruled the world, stomping around in my over-sized neon pants, giant hoodies and spiked hair, so gelled up it would make you bleed if you touched it. I listened to it everywhere I went, sticking extra cassettes in my pockets in case I needed something different. There are times that call for Cinderella instead of Poison.

And I listened to full albums, not just the hits or songs I liked. There was no skipping from song to song, this was even before the technology to fast forward from one song to the next. You listened to the whole thing or dealt with the hassle of trying to find that 2 second gap of silence between them, and you wore your batteries out trying.

But you found songs on the album you never knew about. The whole album was part of your experience, not just certain songs.

It was like this with television too. You watched what was on, when it was on, or you missed it. I came up with thousands of reasons to skip church on Wednesday nights when Clash of the Champions was on.

You couldn’t order whatever you wanted off the internet, so you spent time digging around in stores and saving your money for when you got to go to a comic book store in Albuquerque.

In short, everything wasn’t set up so that I could stay wrapped up in a little bubble of the things I liked, and I was forced to wait on things, and I was forced to give space to different stuff.

I am not sure we are cut out for having the power to choose everything. I wonder if I miss out on things because I am able to pick and choose what I consume.

All of this choice can keep me locked in to specific viewpoints if I let it. I can choose to focus exclusively on Alternet and Patheos and MSNBC and CNN, or I can only deal with with Breitbart and Fox News and Prison Planet and The Drudge Report and never change what I think. I can only read about how vaccines cause autism or only about how they saved the day. I can convince myself that the earth is flat or 6000 years old or 4 billion years old or a computer simulation, and I can feed these views exclusively because the world is one big echo chamber if I want it to be.

Maybe we aren’t cut out for so much choice, or maybe we just need to be conscious about how we use it.