Yesterday my boss walked into the lunch room as I was looking at a container of cookies and asked me how I was doing.
I said, “Choosing a cookie,” which I now realize was a description of what I was doing, not how.
Still, I don’t feel that I answered incorrectly. If you’re in a state of mind in which choosing a cookie is your main concern, you’re doing pretty well.
Here’s the truth, though: I wasn’t choosing a cookie. I was staring at a jumbled pile of identical heart-shaped shortbread cookies, wondering what possible impact my choice could have on my life. With at least two dozen identical possibilities, the very notion of choice evaporates. In that situation, the only available choice is whether or not to select a cookie. Which I had already done. So I had been caught in a post-choice moment, what the academics like to call a liminal space.
What I should have said is, “Having chosen to eat a cookie but not yet taken one, I’m delaying the moment of action by pretending to have a further choice of which cookie to eat, when it’s obvious that my final pick doesn’t matter. I can only conclude that I’m looking at these cookies to develop a narrative about my life in which cookie selection becomes an existentially meaningful act. Within that narrative I’m rolling in novelistic detail, endlessly confirming my existence on the plain of the quasi-real, arguably the only place where humans truly exist. We rise, we revise, and fall back once more, but we fall into a richer and stranger world. So yeah, I’m doing great. Would you like a cookie?”
In the end I picked a cookie with white sugar sprinkles instead of pink, because that seemed a little more authentic.
Originally published at www.thepalinode.com.