The first thursday every month is Art Walk here in Seattle. It means that a lot of museums and galleries have free entrance. I took the oppurtuinity to visit Asian Art Museum and Henry Art Gallery.
On the way back I got off the bus and snuck into Remedy Tea, a café with 150 different types of tea.
I like tea and I like a good selection. It is one of the many advantages with living in a big city such as Stockholm or Seattle. But when I sit there and drink my Silver Needle White tea I can’t stop thinking about all these apparently endless choices we have today.
Do we really become happier by all these choices or do we only get overwhelmed by them?
Todays society give an apparent endless oppurtunity to choose who we want to be, how to live our lives and what we want, something we take for granted in todays invidualized world. At the same time, we can see how all these choices, all these oppurtunities we can experience through the internet and tv and in stores also creates stress.
When we can read about all these millions of possibilities we have to shape our lives it easy to get stuck in all the choices we didn’t make, all the oppurtunities we missed. We choose and then worry that we made the wrong choice. All these choices create an illusion of control over our lives, we can choose anything, but it also creates the feeling that it is my fault if we choose wrong, if we are unhappy. Because we had the choice.
We go around spending a lot of energy making all these choices, that when we stop and think about it seldom really make a huge difference in our lives and in the end we have less energy over to really make the decisions that are tough and important and really make a difference.
To be poor in todays modern society is not so much about finding food for the day, except for a few rare cases, it is about wether we can keep up the consumption compared to everyone else around us.
Sociologist Rollo May see this in the paradox that the more we have, the more unhappy we are. If it was truly so that we became happy by having a lot of material things and unlimited possibilities then people in poor countries be constantly unhappy, and I have seen with my own eyes that this is not so. In many cases they even seem, despite their rough situation, to be happier than us in the west. Material wealth makes life easier, more comfortable, but not necessarily better. If that was the case, life in Sweden today would be happier than in the 80’s. I would say that life is probably more fun today, but that we would actually be happier I have a hard time seeing.
Freedom is not about having infinite things to choose from but being happy with what we already got. To be rich is not about having an unlimited amount of money, it is about seeing that we already have everything we really need.
I recommend watching this inspirational TED-video about choice below. The speech is held by Barry Schwartz, the author of the book “The Paradox of Choice”. It is a well spent 19 minutes and 45 seconds of your life in my opinion.