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I find it nigh impossible to explain my conviction that life is not choice because of a definition problem. Therefore, before i begin, i’ll state clearly two forms of comprehending the word /choice/, calling them /o-choice/ and /n-choice/. I really don’t care for the grammatical correction of those definitions, and to be sure i do not think that n-choice is choice at all.

The first kind of choice is o-choice, which stands for something like choice-as-option, and refers for choosing between a limited amount of options. Examples include going to a restaurant and picking one of the plates offered on the menu, a ballot, a forking of a train line, following one of several sports teams, turning the TV to one channel you want to see and relationship crisis where one of the partners takes a stand and requires the other to either be with him or not be with him, no in betweens.

It is important to see that there is no o-choice between infinite options. For example, if you go into a restaurant and they say to you they will cook absolutely anything you want to eat, you are not o-choosing something to eat, you are doing something else. Most people just say that i am being picky with words when i say this, and that is exactly the reason i am creating my own words here. But let me try to make it clear: the set of capabilities being exerted when you are choosing between infinite possibilities is very different from the set required to choose between clear and definite options.

Then we have n-choice, which is choice-not-option, that is, choice without predefined categories to be picked from. Examples include walking on a field without paths, writing, deciding what one really wants from life and very rare relationships where both persons are mature and do not depend upon that relationship to conduct their lives.

Another important distinction: when you study metrology you discover that a piece that measures 1.37 inches actually can measure anything from 1.3700001 to 1.37999, with a number of options in between limited only by how little a length you can measure. It might seem that this means that there are infinite options in the case of cutting the piece to it’s final size, but this is foolish. One does not decide about such things, in the sense that there are no capabilities involved, one is not applying her nervous system to the task of discerning between, say, “1.371” or “1.372”. The question is: where the energy is being applied? In choosing or in cutting? It is not a choice-act, it is just a cut-act, a movement.

It might be easy to think that the only difference between o-choice and n-choice is the amount of freedom involved. But this is not so. There are n-choice situations with extreme restraints: examples include what you want to do with your life in a impoverished or war situation, or how you spend your time when locked on a cage. Those are not o-choices, there are no clear alternatives to pick between. There are, also, o-choice situations with large amounts of freedom: the restaurant with a menu so gigantic that if you read it whole your lunch time will be over, a choice between the predefined phrases in a computer game, or an electrical power source that you can regulate from 0.1V to 1 gigaV in clearly defined steps.

I stated that the sets of capacities required to adequately deal with both kinds of situations is different, and this is the central point of this argument. N-choice situations require path-finding, o-choice situations require option evaluation. And it seems that children educated to be very good o-choosers tend to perform poorly in n-choice situations, or the contrary.

My personal experience in life is that most of the situations where personal initiative is important are n-choice situations, not choice between options but decision in face of an open circumstance. In those kinds of situations, the reflexes imbued in o-choosers lead them to consistently bad actions. It is like teaching a boy to swim and expect that he will be able to survive in the jungle.

Also, there are many situations that are actually n-choice situations but where some agency tries to force you to face it as an o-choice situation. It is the case where one lover intimates his partner to either be “with me or not”: obviously human emotions are vastly more complex than yes-or-no, but forcing the partner to take an o-choice might seem to force him to dedicate himself to her more. Career-choosing periods of life are also good examples: the person is forced to accept predefined strategies in life and predefined sets of subjects to study in order to be seen as “having a profession” and therefore a deserving member of the community.

Therefore, i believe that there is an insidious trap in the idea that one has to choose what she wants in life, who she wants to be and what she wants to do. Because it might lead us to believe that we are in a o-choice situation. And we are not: we have the whole universe open ahead of us.


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