Since childhood we are taught to make choices. All of us at one point of time or the other have heard the familiar rendition from our parents, “Make the right choice,” “Whatever choices you make now will impact your life forever,” “Once you make the choice there is no going back,” etc. etc. We are taught to carefully weigh our options and pick one.
The premise of making a choice is that you have at least two alternatives available, thereby giving you the opportunity to choose one from the other. Either you choose “this or that,” go with “one or the other,” settle on “A or B.”
Making a choice has a positive connotation in our society as it comes with a plurality. It consists of choosing one option from multiple options, thereby honing our discriminatory skills, sharpening our minds and developing our judgment.
Somehow in modern society singularity is not seen in a positive light. A single option is never good enough. “One” simply does not have the pizzazz as “multiple.” So, I stipulate having the freedom to choose from multiple choices is good in many circumstances.
But, along with the benefits of choices come the burdens as well. At times there are “too many choices,” leading to the fatigue of mental capabilities and a bankruptcy of the brain. A “brain-drain” if you will.
Yesterday I went to my local, organic, over-priced, yuppie, bulk-cereal selling grocery store. I wanted a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and since they have a juice bar thought it would be the perfect place to have it. It is only logical that an elaborate juice bar will have a simple thing such as orange juice. My salivary glands went in overdrive thinking of the whirring of the machine squeezing the warm, pulpy, sweet, tangerine juice from a succulent ripe orange. No fuss, no complications. Sweet, simple bliss.
Au contraire! The “juice specialist” reached into the refrigerator and brought out a plastic container filled with juice! As she started to pour, I stopped her in mid-pour and demanded where the “freshly squeezed” juice was. I was advised with disdain that this is all they had. There was nothing “fresh” about the cold, “sitting-for-hours-in-the-refrigerator” juice. Needless to say I was crestfallen.
But, hey we live in a world of choices, so I exercised my right to choice and ordered a mixed carrot, pineapple and apple juice. I thought it would be an easy one as the store offers an extensive convoluted mixed drink menu. The clerk looked at me with a dropped jaw and asked what “base” I wanted so that she could make the necessary division of fruit. It was my turn to drop my jaw, as I had never imagined that a glass of juice could get so very complex. It seemed that a simple drink had turned into a flow-chart of multiple choices with off-shoots in various directions. Would I now be asked to divide my drink into fractions and percentages? I shuddered with fright as my math skills border on being cipher and the calculator on my Blackberry gets stuck on the division key.
The array of choices had turned into a nightmare and needless to say my taste for the sweet juice had soured by now.
I don’t know if you guys have noticed it or not, but in today’s times we are constantly faced with an overabundance of choices even for simple things. Items where one would not expect or want to make a choice, such as ordering a glass of juice that should not require algorithmic equations.
It makes me wonder, do these choices really help us or are they unnecessarily using up our brain data that should be reserved for higher, more complex and loftier purposes.
Another example is coffee. I have written about coffee before as I love the heavenly elixir. I go to a coffee shop looking forward to a cup of hot, milky, divine brew. What am I faced with? Choices, choices and more choices. Complex volume sizes in faux-foreign languages; measurements of coffee shots in metric sizes that I am unfamiliar with; milk calculated in percentages; coffee whiteners made of items that I usually associate with eating rather than drinking, such as coconut; use of a “shot” glass that reminds me of a Russian vodka bar rather than a warm, soothing, literary coffee shop.
Historically, coffee shops were used as meeting places for scholars, artists and the literary. Ideas were born, debates were held, classics written and labyrinthine theories pondered upon over umpteen cups of coffee, yes plain and simple coffee. The likes of Hemingway, Picasso and Henry Miller used to hang out in cafes such as Le Select in Paris. I wonder if Hemingway could have written The Old Man and the Sea if he was spending time ordering a complex coffee drink and flustering between choices such as non-fat, 2%, low-fat, one shot or multiple shots, venti, grande or whatever the hell the third size is latte!!! Or if Picasso would have time or the energy to doodle Dance of Youth on a napkin after ordering a drink from a “not-so-easy-to-decipher” multiple-choice menu!
How about social media? We all love it and use the gazillion choices in social media. I understand it is all about visibility. But after some time doesn’t it get redundant, repetitive and non-innovative. The same content is posted on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, Hootsuite, Tumblr etc.
Are we creating new content in the various mediums of social media or is it simply transmission of the same content to various channels. Would the works of Leonardo di Vinci be masterpieces if he took photos and blogged, Tweeted, Facebooked and Tumblred them. Wouldn’t the glory of his masterpieces be diluted by the number of choices available?
Choices are great as they give us freedom. They give us options. However, certain things in life should be kept simple. They are enjoyed most when in their simplest form such as a simple cup of coffee. Too many choices create Horror vacui, cluttering the mental faculties and debilitating the brain, thereby leaving little room for the brain to perform at its maximum capacity.
My friend Albert has written a book on constitutional law. Currently, he is on a promotional tour discussing the various nuances and intricacies of the Constitution. He is debating heavy topics such as First Amendment, Gay marriage, Freedom of Speech, Obscenity, etc.
I on the other hand am writing a blog on coffee. Yes, coffee! Yesterday, I experienced a dead hand. I thought, I am a practicing attorney and the partner in a law firm, yet I am writing about something as trivial as a cup of coffee. Should I not be discussing serious subjects such as trademarks, patents, copyrighting and even if I do discuss coffee, shouldn’t it be in the context of interstate commerce rather than merely describing my enjoyment of the frothy beverage! Doubts started seeping into my mind..am I shallow? Is my cerebral matter limited to the extent of discussing only “froth” topics? Then I sternly admonished myself and said…I love coffee, it is not a mundane topic, it is not trivial. In fact, it is probably one of the most valued products in international commerce these days. Many a contracts are drafted around coffee, many a closed door corporate meetings are held around coffee, many a brain storming sessions are held for coffee and most importantly many a cups are enjoyed all over the world. So, I am basically writing an analytical piece on an international topic (so, I tell myself.)
I am an olfactory challenged person. My sense of smell and taste have been destroyed by a chronic sinus inflammation. Alas, the doors of the wonderful world of discriminatory palette, discerning taste and the new “hip, recently discovered” sense of UMAMI are ever closed for me.
New York City
As you must know by now, I am a being of finesse and luxury. My affliction however leaves me gustatorially (if that is a word) challenged! With the paucity of my olfactory senses I cannot discriminate the boldness, flavor, body, aroma and finish of my very favorite beverage-COFFEE!!
So what do I do? I use the neurotransmitters in my brain to provide me the pleasure that drinking coffee does to connoisseurs.
I use my hands to feel the warmth of the cup. The joy of cupping my hands around a hot cup of coffee on a cold day and feeling the warmth seep through is inexplicable. Forget about the unsightly brown cup sleeves that were solely designed to avoid a “burn lawsuit.” I will take my chances with second degree burns!!
I use my eyes to visually thrill myself with the steam emanating from the cup. The delicate brown swirls in a cappuccino exult me.
I use my tongue to feel and imagine the bold aroma of the concoction whiffing through the steaming cup.
I use my brain to imagine the far flung corners of the globe that the coffee has been imported from. Imagine a hot, steaming beverage coming all the way from the forests of Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, India and Columbia, an ode to international commerce in a culinary global world!
Imagine all the people who work on the coffee plantations and have the joy and good karma of tasting and smelling the fresh roasting of the coffee…brings tears to my eyes. You might think I am being melodramatic as it is JUST coffee and WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL!! Well, it IS a big deal for me!! I love the warm beverage as it invokes feelings of happiness, community, relaxed times with loved ones and a moment of respite in our hurried lives!
The act of drinking any coffee, whether it is a cappuccino, Madras coffee, cafe lungo, cafe macchiato or Turkish coffee, brims my heart with frothy rapture and bliss…whether I can taste it or not, who cares…AFTER ALL it is “ALL” A STATE OF MIND!!