The Polarizing Effect of “Infinite Opportunity” – On which side of the door are you?


“…Yet true life is led between dark and light:
“I locked the door,” you said,
An important sentence, full of destiny.
I still remember the words,
But I forgot on which side of the door they were said,
Inside or outside.
And from the only letter I wrote to you
I remember only the bitter taste of
The stamp’s glue on
My tongue.”

Yehuda Amichai

“Who wants something real/when you could have nothing?” – Girls – “Substance

I have never felt plagued by what I like to call “infinite possibilities syndrome”. I have always keenly felt that all things are limited.

“The greatest delight, I sense,
is hidden sublimely in the act of betrayal
which can be equal only to fidelity.
To betray a woman, friends, an idea,
to see new light in the eyes
of distant shadows. But choices are limited: other women, other
ideas, the enemies of our long-standing friends. If only
we could encounter some quite different
otherness, settle in a country which has
no name, touch a woman before she is born, lose our memories, meet
a God other than our own.”

Adam Zagajewski, “Betrayal”

Our lives, our choices, our partners … we might take on many different guises and go to different places, but most things are ephemeral. We only have the right now – whatever choice we last made might be the last choice. I do not consciously think about that every time I make a choice, but generally I have never been under any illusion that there were infinite possibilities and opportunities open to me. I have always been laboring along under realistic ideas about the world, I tend to think… or at least about the little parts of the world I was making my way through.

It is possible that this sense of options closing themselves off hits men later than women, I have begun to think, given my own life’s circumstances. The idea of “settling down” or whatever seems anathema or distasteful to many men makes “infinite options” (or the idea of this, even if there are in reality no options) sound preferable to any other alternative, so keeping doors open (even those that would be better closed) to preserve the illusion of abundant or endless choice makes sense. In a way I could argue that at least in part, I think women like myself – who are often judged on their youth and physical appearance – understand only too well that time is of the essence. The choices one can make will never be better – generally- than when one is young – as a female anyway. This is a sweeping generalization, but I think it is stuff like this that fuels many women’s realizations that they do not have infinite options – certainly not forever. And of course women have the oft-cited biological clock to think about…).

A good example of this is the dubious world of online dating. In some ways, it presents a veritable catalog of infinite choices of nationalities, genders, ages, proclivities, interests. All these people who are presumably putting their best foot forward. We can choose one who will be fine, but because of the “window shopping” nature of the medium, we harbour the illusion that if we keep looking through the catalog we will find someone even better, brighter, more beautiful. Unlimited the ways we manage to limit ourselves and keep ourselves completely non-committal. It is the ultimate place for non-committal people – semi-interested in meeting someone, but not enough to make the ballsy move of meeting someone in reality. Not interested or courageous enough to cut off all the other “possibilities”. In the online realm, it seems, most people are equally as squeamish – all excitement and premature pronouncements in the beginning and then all the disappointment of reality. This can still happen in situations born in the real world but it is quite a different thing. Easy to get lost in this alternate reality, but eventually there is a polarizing decision: continue on, skimming the surface, feeling falsely popular and never making any choices or discriminating determinations OR choose the best option among those you have – trying to eliminate the paralysis that comes with the illusions of unlimited choice.

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