31 Flavors

2 Aug

I remember once reading a brilliant essay in a news magazine about an American who travelled somewhere in Africa. While eating at a restaurant there with a native, the two were offered ice cream for dessert at which point the American shared, “In the United States we have an ice cream store where there are thirty-one flavors to choose from for an ice cream cone. “That is far too many,” the African said. “People shouldn’t have that many choices.” 

I was so struck by this. In many ways, we are inundated with choices, particularly from a consumer standpoint. I get lost trying to figure out which electronics and appliances to purchase (so I don’t) and even choosing what cereal to buy spins my head (I prefer Grape-Nuts). But on the other hand, I am grateful that in America we have choices: choices regarding our jobs, education, what religion we follow and who we date or marry. And because of this, I feel a moral responsibility to take advantage of my freedom. 

The flip side of choices entails responsibility. If I make a choice, I have to pay the consequences of my decisions. 

Whenever I’m faced with choices, I have a bad habit of asking for advice. While feedback often helps, it can be a cop out, buffing us from owning our decisions and from turning to God for guidance. So I have tried to embrace my choices, even if I initially ask a million people what they think. 

My friends often say I neurose (not sure if that is a word) too much over things. Related, I remember the dean at college saying to freshmen, “Don’t think too much about your major. Just pick something! Otherwise, you might stay in school on the ten year plan.” And yes, we can mentally masturbate over things. But I also find that when I obsess over something, I learn in the process. My values become redefined; something becomes clear that wasn’t. Or, emotions surface that show me the decision entails more than meets the eye. 

So although I typically like coffee or banana ice cream, occasionally I’ll venture out and try a different flavor.  Yet again, sometimes it’s nice not having too many choices and to go with what is reliable and familiar.

But I have learned that those roads less travelled that Robert Frost writes so eloquently about sometimes do make all the difference in our lives.

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