Someone was offering me a gift. It wasn’t quite to my liking and the phrase beggars can’t be choosers popped in my head. In this case, the gift was substantial, something I wouldn’t do for myself and was fortunate to be the beneficiary of. I wanted to want what was on offer, not crave something unavailable. Quoting this phrase to myself was supposed to help achieve that. But no sooner had I said the phrase then I started to dissect it. If beggars can’t be choosers, then choosers must what? Pay a fee? Instead of thinking about gratitude, I started to think about this new phrase.
The phrase implies that getting what you want means you need to have money. The better choices are usually more expensive. I get that with hotels and restaurants and carpets and homes. If choice is the most important thing, then money is the most important thing. The more money, the more choice.
But what if having the ability to choose without restriction excludes you from a different worthwhile experience? Is choice always the best option? Is it ever preferable to be the beggar?
Not everything in life is for sale and not every outcome is predicated on choosing. More often than not, fate is the chooser and makes beggars of us all. You don’t choose who you’re going to randomly meet and fall in love with. You don’t choose your child. You don’t choose to have an accident. You don’t choose the Fiestaware that came with your spouse. You don’t choose the things you find yourself obsessed with like a love of crystals or plants or Fiestaware or art. Many things just happen and often those things affect your life far more than what you do choose. No one’s gravestones talk about their great choice in carpets. So why do we think choosing is the ultimate in self-expression?
Also, while it’s wonderful to have what we want, it’s only wonderful if we know what we want. Our desires are a moving and morphing target. Sometimes you buy something you think you want and find out you don’t. That sucks. How do you learn what you love? You try new things. How do you try new things? An opportunity comes your way. Until you try it, you may not want to. Until you love it, you may be put off by it. There is always an unknown period of just experiencing something and learning from direct contact. We don’t get that with choice. You don’t know what the vegan tacos taste like when you choose the pork.
It’s important to develop both skills, both mindsets. If you are going to pay, you might as well get something good if you can. And for sure, it’s good to use your resources to support your affinities and open yourself to opportunity. But if you are going to be the recipient, it’s best to have the ability appreciate what you have been given, to orient towards the positive rather than ruminate on the negative. To see that maybe you have been given something very valuable and rare. Something you would never have otherwise. Don’t reject something before you really know what it is.