Choice as Neglect

I was at a party on July 4, talking with JR Briggs of Resonate about books. He said that he gets anxious in a bookstore because every book he chooses is his choosing 1000 other books to NOT read. I can definitely relate to that. But as I thought about that statement later I found it to be true in almost every sphere of life. In fact Derrida talks about this in his Gift of Death, which is an excellent book by the way. But it is true that our choice in almost everything is a choice that excludes almost an infinite amount of other possibilities. And this has very practical implications in our Christian lives. Every time I choose to eat a fancy restaurant, I am choosing to not send that money to a starving family in Africa, and I am responsible for that decision. But every time I choose to send that money to a starving family in Africa, I am choosing to neglect a starving family in Asia. Of course this could go on infinitely, but hopefully it helps us to see that our choices affect more than just those things or people that are directly influenced by that decision. So it seems somewhat funny and trite when we think about this concept in terms of books, but not so funny when we think about it in terms of hurting people in this world. Now this could easily lead to despair, a labyrinth of neglect, a drowning in the awareness of the profundity of every decision we make, but it doesn’t need to. But then again, maybe that’s the point.

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