Saturday, August 18, 2007

Kumbya 3 - is too much choice bad?

One thing that was noticeable at Kumbya was how well the young people and children got on and across gender, age and cultural gaps which would probably have proved a step too far in a western context. We discussed this with an American friend who has been in Rwanda and among missionaries for many years. Her observation was that “missionary kids” were usually very able and willing to relate to a much wider range of people than young people at home.
We speculated if this was due to necessity arising from a lack of choice of friends. (Social isolation is still one of the major problems we and other westerners face in Rwanda). The question then arose as to whether too much choice is actually bad for you. Does it encourage self-indulgence, spending too much time considering what you want? I think I would answer a tentative “yes” to that question. Spending too much time on choice focuses our energies on our personal needs and put simply that just goes against the advice of Jesus about the best way to live.
Being in Rwanda certainly reduces choice in a whole range of areas, from food to friendships to travel. Like all spiritual disciplines, it is difficult at times, but I am coming to realise that as a discipline it can produce spiritual health. Western society is of course full of a myriad of choices and the freedom to choose is fundamental to politics and the economy. I would never recommend actively reducing choice for others, but I wonder how the benefits of “reduced choice” can be realised in at least some areas of life.
As an aside, the “luxury” foods we brought back with us – muesli, dark chocolate and assorted cheeses – are now nearly finished. `I like my freedom of choice as much as anyone!

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