a little something extra

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sabbath 20

Annnnnd... we're back.

This week's chapter is called "The Tyranny of Choice." In it, Muller discusses how the proliferation of choices in contemporary life have made that life more exhausting, and yet, how fiercely people defend their right to that degree of choice.

The most substantial part of Muller's message begins with this: "we chafe at any restriction on our capacity to generate options, and we revolt against any concept of prohibition... Who do those ancient sages think they are anyway, always telling us what we are not allowed to do?"

On the one hand, I find that I'm happier when I decline to deal with certain choices. For example, see my recent post about not having broadcast TV in my home. I spend almost no energy now deciding what to watch on TV -- I have a maximum of three options at any time, since that's the number of DVDs on my Netflix subscription. Most of the time I don't think of watching TV at all, especially during this busy season in my professional year.

But on the other hand, it's extremely important to me that reducing the number of options in my life be my choice -- not a curtailment of options visited on me by presumptuous persons -- who in my cultural and religious tradition are overwhelmingly statistically male.

Muller seems unaware of, or unconcerned about, the gender implications of his reliance on ancient religious traditions, which are statistically overwhelmingly oppressive of women.

He also lapses into his bad habit of generalizing from his own emotional experience and making statements as though those emotional experiences were the only ones that anyone could have under analogous circumstances. Which is lame and lazy thinking if it's what he actually thinks, and is a disrespectful and transparent attempt to manipulate his readers if it's not.

Muller concludes the chapter with an anecdote about a convent that supported itself in part by raising and caring for cattle. When the convent changed its grazing practice to limit the pasture to a small part of the available land, and moving the fence to another small patch of land frequently, they later found that vegetation grew much more richly in the fallow land. This is a nice illustration of the fact that certain things will simply not happen if you're constantly churning up the figurative soil of your life -- but periods of rest and calm will create the conditions in which those things have a chance to happen. (Not guaranteed that they will happen, but at least they'll have a chance.)

His recommended exercise this week is a moment of creativity to either calm or rev up your soul, whichever it needs. Since I'm creative full-time, this would further tire rather than refresh me. I'm skipping it.

Cristopher's post comes at this chapter from a completely different direction, which I think is one of the true joys of a grupenreading experiment like this one. Tripp's post appeared this morning.


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