In British sign language the symbol for ‘which’ looks a little like the hand gesture that Crocodile Dundee makes towards a buffalo to settle it down as the first film opens.
He curls under the three middle fingers of one hand, then pushes the thumb and little finger out to the side. This faintly wavering structure somehow hypnotises the animal, and as he approaches he is able to persuade it to peacefully lie down so that Mick and his companion can drive past.
I’m not suggesting that Buffalo are British Sign Language users. That would be silly.
But you can understand how being asked to make a decision between two invisible ideas might be a little petrifying.
Decisions are tricky.
They often call upon some of the more raggedly undeveloped portions of the brain, particularly the parts responsible for seeing the future or working out what other people might think.
I think that’s where we get caught up.
Then there’s trying to make the distinction between the warm fleshy guts and the cold rigid brains. Instinct or intellect?
They say (‘they’ being the unreliable memory of studies I’ve heard referenced by more than one source, so apply a pinch of salt or a thick layer of googling) that it’s been experimentally proven that in certain situations, we take actions before our conscious brain has made the decision. Our brain actually reacts to our own actions, trying to tell a story that helps the whole process of self continue to make sense.
I don’t know if this applies to shopping too, and I doubt if it matters.
The choices we make, create our path through life, and in so doing create our selves. It’s a branching narrative of instant after instant of choices choices choices. Right now I’m picking one letter after the other, picking a route across my keyboard that traces a story that I feel presents my view on something to you.
It’s the same in brains, in life, in everything.
One choice after the next, pushing you forward, and providing you with a story of your self that holds you together internally, and gives you something to show the world around you.
This is one of the reason people put so much stock in shopping as identity. It’s an opportunity to publicly display the choices you’ve made. Represent them onto yourself.
It doesn’t make it cool. It’s a false identity, probably. The shit we own, the stuff we wear, these are not the important choices. The reasoning is obscured. The reading is muddled.
The choices that make us are probably a bit subtler than that. There’s a good chance they are the choices we don’t even consider. The ones we just go through, unthinking, safe in the knowledge that we are ‘being ourselves’.
I don’t know. It seems different from day to day. So I keep on pressing forward. Through the blank page of chaos.
Into the future.
Whichever future that is.
Illustration by Maria.