The past few days I’ve come back to the realization that it’s so very easy to criticize individual people or to make proposals on how to better personkind, but when it comes to noticing personal faults or growing the self, the challenge sometimes seems insurmountable. Often it’s easier to go into the world and work with large groups of people than it is to work with the person you are living with or yourself. Sometimes the faults that I notice in the world are the same faults that I when I look in the mirror.
Yesterday I had a conversation about control. I realized that in my personal life I try to control as much as possible, be it people or situations, and when I perceive that I’m losing control (even if, in reality, I never had it in the first place) I tend to get angry. We spoke about the fact that I have been programmed to want to control things. That when I feel like things are slipping away, I go back to the one thing I know, control. We talked about the cycle where not being able to control something make me angry, and the only way I know to get rid of the anger is to try and control something. The conversation ended without any real resolve, which left me grappling with the concept for the rest of the day, into this morning.
I began to think about why I try to control things and if it has ever worked. I couldn’t reach any conclusions concerning myself and the question of why, and I also couldn’t think of any examples in my life where I was able to completely control something. When I used to drive a car, I would somehow believe I could control the traffic, that maybe if I got angry enough, or honked my horn long enough, people would clear out of my way. When I feel down, like nothing in my life is working, I tend to try and exert control over my partner, thinking that it’s the only way I can guarantee she won’t leave me. When I used to watch sports, I would get so emotionally involved that I would blame myself for their loses.
My thoughts turned to the world as a whole, as tends to happen when I’m thinking about myself. It seems obvious to point out that the primary purpose of government (and religion) is to control large populations of people for the benefit of a small minority, but I don’t want to concern myself with something as trivial and illegitimate as government. What about people trying to control people?
People are actively trying to control what kind of children they have, through human genetic modification. There are groups of people who want to keep other groups of people from having equal rights, even though this will in no way encroach on anyone else’s rights. Those are the large scale examples, but there are millions of more personal examples. Often times, especially in the case of things like genetic modification, being able to control nature is looked at as progress. In my opinion, we are doing things absolutely backwards. Progress in my eyes looks like giving up the idea that we can or should control anything. I guess it all depends on what we think we need to progress- is it our control over nature or our self-discovery?
When most people think about giving up control, they think of losing control. They imagine a drug addict or crazy person covered in urine, unable to control their thoughts or actions. There is a difference between understanding that we cannot control outcomes, and completely giving up all hope of trying to accomplish anything. Sans suicide, we have no control over when we die, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to live each moment to the fullest. As a mentor of mine used to say, “We can get out of our seat with the intention of opening the window, but that doesn’t mean we will succeed.” However, it also doesn’t mean that we should not attempt to open the window if we want the window open. All we really have control over are our actions, not the results. We can act hoping to create a certain outcome, but we cannot be too attached to that outcome, because – again – we really have no control.
This is a very hard concept to understand (especially when it’s being explained by someone who doesn’t fully understand it) and harder even to accept. Call me idealistic (again) but I can imagine a world where we spend more time trying to understand the balance between control and acceptance than we do trying to control things that we have no chance of controlling; a world where we spend as much time trying to foster spirituality as we now dedicate to religious services or holidays.
I’m starting with the acceptance that, although I want this utopian world I keep describing, I have no idea whether or not it will ever come to fruition. All I can do is act in ways I think are correct, and hope that the results are positive. Today I will write a blog because somewhere in my delusional mind, I believe I sometimes give good advice. I will go another day – my 35th in a row, without driving a motorized vehicle. I will offer a neighbor my help if I see any of them in their yards. What will you do?
An Exxon/Mobil higher up was gunned down in front of his wife yesterday.