Of TP., Air Freshener & Choices
Written by Beverly Walker
(parishioner at St. John’s)
Of toilet paper, air freshener and choices
I was reading a book the other day and came across this sentence, “Rats live longer and healthier lives when they have fewer choices, all things being equal.” And thought wow! When you have been around for a long time, wow moments become fewer and fewer. The fact that we had just returned from doing our shopping and I was still feeling stressed from the experience might have been part of the reason that this sentence resonated with me.
Now a days my reading is mostly done on an e-reader or the computer. If you have ever tried to research an idea on the internet you’ll know the stress and frustration of finding the information source that suits your needs of the moment. Sometimes after one of these searches I find myself drowning in nostalgia over the Encyclopedia Britannica or the Oxford Concise Dictionary. And as for selecting something to read on the e-book site, I have learned to narrow my selection down by category and sub-category until I have a manageable number of choices.
There are times when I am doing the shopping in the supermarket I am faced with mind numbing choices the consideration of which takes far too much time and energy. As simple a thing as choosing toilet paper can stretch ones mathematics skills and desire for comfort – not a time to consider the brand that has a similar effect to sandpaper even if more economical.
I have friends who look at the weekly grocery flyers then drive all over St. Thomas, Aylmer and the outer fringes of London to stock up and save money. They stand at the check-out with a fistful of coupons and flyer websites on their cell phone to assure themselves they are getting the most for their money. The satisfaction they must feel at knowing they are getting the bargains their nature desires must also be tempered by the thought that if they had spent more time searching they could have found a better price. These people terrify me but I sooth myself by telling me that my obsessive compulsive behaviour takes a different form.
And so it has become with religious beliefs. When I was a young person we were expected to “grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men.” The majority of us did this within the Christian church be it Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church, Baptist or the more esoteric Pentecostal or Jehovah’s Witnesses. There were followers of Judaism that we were aware of but didn’t think we had ever met. The fact that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi was certainly underplayed in my upbringing. And Muslims were the folk that the Crusaders used for target practice and to get their randy young men off doing something glorious rather than raping and pillaging in Medieval Europe – according to our history books. We knew about Confucius – more as a joke – but not as a very wise Chinese philosopher and founder of Confucianism.
Humans are different from critters that live in the here and now, as humans seem to intrinsically realize that they are not the be-all and end-all of existence but that that which is the essence of our thoughts and feelings that we call our soul must not just cease when our body dies. When searching a belief system that meets our needs, the present day availability of beliefs is akin to choice of air fresheners in a monster supermarket – mind boggling in its components, delivery systems and scents. And just as the rats have great stress when faced with too many choices, we too are stressed by all these alternatives.
Many people have given up trying to make a choice. The selection is too great – the pull this way and that too daunting. They are left with lives lacking purpose. Their disappointment is reflected in their anger against the society they live in, the work they do. They abuse the systems set to give social order and justify the abuse by claiming society is unfair to the attainment of their hopes or they despair of attaining the financial security held up to them as an example by the media and fear that without it their lives are meaningless.
As luck would have it, over the years my choice of belief system has become Christianity and more specifically that which is represented by the Anglican Church. There is something there for everyone from the “bells and smells” of a high church service that reminds us of the majesty of our creator and how seriously we should take His presence to the simple contemporary service that reminds us that Jesus, God’s son, was one of us.
Our Anglican community is going through a period of transition. And here again we are going to have choices. Hopefully only 2 or 3. We can wring our hands and moan and drip about the unfairness of it all or we can look at what is offered and make a choice then work to fulfill that choice. We are a strong community and a good portion of our strength is in our ability to see what action is needed then get on with it. I have lived a moderate length of time and unlike the rat, I don’t want the rest of it to be stressful, just productive.
Beverly Walker, Parishioner