Our choices tell us who we are. In hypothetical situations it is easy to be heroic or generous, but no one can be sure what he would do until tested in real life. Since we prefer to believe the best of ourselves, if faced with a genuinely costly decision we might act differently than we think. You already know your history in life choices familiar to most of us: electing more time at work or at home, determining what to spend your money on, choosing a life partner, etc. What of those you haven’t experienced?
With all that in mind, I offer you several imaginary scenarios designed to reveal your values. You might find out something new about yourself if you take any of them seriously. After all, the words “know thyself” were inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo. I’d be grateful if you comment and share your thoughts as you consider the outlined scenes, even if you mention only one. I suggest you consider just one at a time. In a future post, I’ll give you my own ideas about the dilemmas listed below:
- Someone asks you for a year off your life — a transfer of 365 days from you to him in return for money. Would you accept? How much money seems sufficient? The old Twilight Zone TV series presented an interesting story involving such an offer: The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross.
- If you could trade one extra year of good health and youth for one less year of longevity, would you make the exchange?
- What would you die for?
- What would you kill for?
- Imagine you are given the opportunity to improve your physical beauty by 25% or your intelligence by a similar percentage. One or the other, just by saying so. Please discuss your decision and justify it.
- You are offered the chance to live one day over again. A “do-over.” Which 24-hours would you choose, if any? Describe what led you to this determination.
- A genie will give you the ability to relive one day of your life just as it happened, without change. Which would you choose? Explain.
- The gift of immortality on earth is yours — to live forever, never aging beyond your current age. Do you want it? Why or why not?
- In your travels you come upon a fountain of youth enabling eternal earthly life at whatever chronological age you choose, with only the knowledge and experience you possessed at that time. To what moment would you return? Might you decide not to drink from the fountain? Tell me more.
- Who is the one person living to whom you most owe an apology? Why haven’t you expressed your regret?
- Imagine you can live the fantasy of succeeding in everything you try and being continuously satisfied by the progress of your life. It will be experienced as absolutely real, even though you will be in a chair connected to a machine keeping you healthy, supplying you with food, and fooling you into believing you are elsewhere. Alternatively, you can try to make your way in the real world you and I live in, as you do today. Which would you opt for?
- You are offered a risk-free, brief surgery permitting you to give yourself ecstatic pleasure by pressing a button whenever you want: the most powerful mood-changer ever invented. The marvelous joy beyond joy lasts only 10 minutes, so if you want more you have to press repeatedly. Do you accept this “gift”? Explain.
- You are given a trip in a time machine, enabling you to go back to the moment in history you’d prefer to live in, in whatever place you’d like to live, though you’d remain your current age. The journey is one-way — no coming back. Moreover, you can bring only one other person with you. Would you do so and with whom? To what historical moment and place? Elaborate your deliberation process.
No right or wrong answers here. Have at it!
The painting is The Fountain of Youth, 1908, by Paul Jean Gervais. It comes from Wikimedia Commons.