Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

ED's picture

Choice: Humans Are Animals Too, Thank God (or Nature)

 With such a hefty question, Does it matter what you choose?, I am inclined (or even slightly nudged?) to spiral into truisms and ultimatums about how much an individual choice matters-- but the point of this Seminar is to be able to have a discussion about choice (and whether/how it matters), which necessitates gradient scales and critical thinking instead of black and white thinking, which helps a thinker like me avoid generalizations or truisms about choice.

This question is left open-ended, as Anne/Peter meant it to be. Who is "you"? Is it everyone, or just you, or just referring to an individual choice? On page 364 and 365 of Prodigal Summer, Deanna has an epiphany while she is running away from thunder storms (her irrational fear), about the choice she feels she must make about the frustrating argument she's been having between her mind and her body's wants-- As she suddenly sees the cabin and watches the black snake (Eddie's irrational fear), leave the cabin for good. "relief, it felt like, enormous and settled, like a pile of stones on a steep slope suddenly shifting and tumbling slightly into the angle of repose. The pounding of What do I want went still in her breast. It didn't matter what she chose. The world was what it was, a place with its own rules of hunger and satisfaction. Creatures lived and mated and died, they came and went, as surely as summer did. They would go their own ways, of their own accord." (365). My interpretation of what she realizes is that what has been stressing her out so much is a purely human contraption, a purely human-invented problem, existing in her own world outside of the "natural" course of things.

Her realization connects somewhat to Lusa's belief in life systems existing even when you cannot see them... Lusa trusts that pheromones and molecules and memories are really floating out there in our auras, and will guide us in our decision-making processes. Call it intuition, call it a gut-feeling; Lusa believes it's real, while Deanna has gotten caught up in the human world of logistics and choice. Though she is an expert on nature and is surrounded by it, Deanna is the one who thinks it matters that she and Eddie Bondo would be a strange sight to see out in public. To that, Eddie responds: "but no one can see us, and so it's not strange" (something like that). He seems to believe more in intuitive choice than she.

To return to the initial question, does it matter what you choose, I would say yes, when the "choice" isn't a paradox; when it isn't between a few choices that all seem to put you in a worse position. Choice matters when it makes you happy, when it gives you agency. In Deanna's situation asking herself what she wants, she forgot to stop thinking-- which is the only way a choice like "want" can be made, I believe. The choice between body and mind couldn't be made; humans don't get to choose which they compromise-- but alas, the earthly needs of the body almost always win (humans commit suicide, but not as often as they choose to live, which is bodily), even if your mind doesn't want it to be so. So, at this point, relax. Be relieved, as Deanna is. There is nothing you can do about your station in life when it comes to this basic level of needs- so let the choice go and be grateful for the headache ending. Be choosey in every other situation, if you can handle the deliberation. If you can't deal, "simplify," as Barry Schwartz might recommend.

Reply

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
6 + 5 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.