The Case of Variety vs. Naiveté

Blog Entries, Essays

In this age of information and technology, knowledge is power. Data is the currency. Variety is paramount. Our independence is defined by our knowledge of our choices. And with that knowledge we are enlightened. How else would we make an educated decision for anything?

We look down at those who only know one way of living. How can they be happy if they don’t know what’s out there?

But it’s worth asking: Is it really naïve to know only one way of thinking and doing things? Or is it perhaps an expression of innocence, of purity? Nowadays, purity is scarce. Our lifestyle is one of knowing every side to the equation, being aware of all the choices. Every day, we live with choices while knowing that others exist. It’s a much harder life. It can be torture.

“But at least I’m not naïve,” you think. As if naiveté is the greatest sin one can commit. As if ignorance of other choices negates your current one. If anything, it’s the opposite. People appreciate fewer choices, not more. Most of us don’t want to choose between 24 different types of jelly. Psychologist and social scholar Barry Shwartz has done a lot of research on this subject. Watch his fascinating video here.

For years everything was about choice. “Choices are freedom.” That was the slogan. It was a myth. Fragmentation is frustration. All we want now is wholeness. It’s currently #trending.

It’s no longer so great to split yourself into a million different pieces. Now the goal is to put yourself back together. Can you focus on any one thing for an extended period of time? We’re the ADD generation, and I’m not talking about kids on Ritalin. We are driven to distraction. We can’t focus on things for extended periods of time. The instantaneous communication of smartphones has divided our attention into dozens of separate compartments. Tolerance for delay has dropped drastically. It’s hard to sit with one thing anymore, because there’s always something else to watch or listen to, there’s always someone else we want to spend time with. Efficiency is the prize. We multi-task while we eat, always doing something else. Or it’s the other way around, like eating popcorn while watching a movie, food as entertainment. There’s always a way to make something better. Always a way to obsess over trivial efficiency when you know there are more choices. Usually about the trivial things.

But, imagine. Imagine believing in one religion, adhering to one philosophy. This is what we want now. We played it safe for too long, saying, “I don’t know” so that we’d never be wrong about the big issues. Republican or democrat? God or Evolution? I don’t know. It’s easier that way.

Of course, the answer for iPhone vs. Android is clear and impassioned. You see people’s chosen sports team championed beyond any rationale. After all, look at the stats. Compare this to that. Know the choices.

How about going with one way of thinking for a bit?

I think it’s time to slow down and reassess. Do we like where we are now? Do we really value choice above all else? (1. Yes or 2. No)

There’s an entire movement in Europe which celebrates slowness, though I think the Slow Movement is a silly name. I think what they’re really after is wholeness. Simplicity, but not all that modern minimalist stuff. To be on the same page in all departments in life.

Hey, it’s worth a shot, right?

I will say this though: If the biggest obstacle between you and being single-minded is the fear of being naïve, well, that’s just another world of irony.


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