One View of Control and Circumstance

“… ain’t this just like the present, to be showing up like this”

“Blood Bank” by Bon Iver

We take snapshots of our lives all the time. The concept of a blog exemplifies this notion. We can think we have everything figured out; we can plan, and we can prepare, but most of the time your life is altered by something you couldn’t predict. Which gets me to the point of this entry – control.

The reality is circumstances shape the situations we face day in and day out. To ultimately change those circumstances you have to do two things you can control: take a risk to escape them and be disciplined with the follow through. In other words, you have to sacrifice all of the aspects that aren’t so bad to really separate yourself from the part that is. And of course, there is no sure thing, so you are risking an outcome that isn’t any better than the life you just left.

But here is where perspective comes in. If you take a daily stock of all the positives in a bad situation, then they seem to add up to  something worthwhile. But that is on a daily scale. When you look at it over a time period of say five years, you realize that all those daily positives don’t really add to anything. They were all fleeting. Both  views take into consideration control.

There is something to be said for being self reliant and seeing a goal materialize within minutes or hours of beginning the effort. We all have some internal clock that says if it takes longer than a month for example then it all of sudden gets much harder. And the only thing that changed was the length of time. We just struggle to envision something, in realistic terms, that far out.

To compensate, we break up our work into chunks that add up to something more grand. For me, its this blog. 30 minutes every other day doesn’t seem like much, but over two years it really adds up to something substantial.

For example, here is an excerpt that I like on the subject. Its by Leonard Mlodinow in an NY Times blog entry called The Limits of Control:

My mother had always feared domestic animals, but now as a plumpneighborhood cat ran up our driveway, she gazed at the feline, andrevealed that 70 years ago she had had a pet cat. Her 87-year-old eyesteared up. Her cat was white, she said, and so thin you could see itsribs. Still, she loved to cuddle it. It wasn’t a house cat – itcouldn’t have been, because she was imprisoned at the time, in aforced-labor camp the Nazis set up in Poland, the country where mymother was born and raised. Back then she was as emaciated as the cat,but still she shared her food with it. It gave her comfort she said,and it was a way of fighting back, to help this animal that, like her,the Germans planned to let die.

My mother’s illusion came to an end when, one day, her labor camp catstopped coming. She never learned exactly what happened to it.Unfortunately, that became a template for nameless outcomes by whichher sister, her father, and most of her friends disappeared. Of hermany illusions of youth that the Nazis snuffed out, the feeling thatshe could control her destiny was one of the most difficult to accept.But for my mother, and for all those who lived through similarexperiences, surviving meant not only possessing a special toughness ofbody, but also of mind. She found a way to face the world without theillusion of control, of dealing with life as it comes, day to day,without expectation.

It’s not that my mother hasn’t lost money, or that she doesn’t need it.She isn’t bothered because her early experiences of utter powerlessnesstaught her to give herself up to what she calls fate. Understanding myown need for control – and exactly why I cannot have it – I now takecomfort in letting go of the illusion, and accepting that despite allmy efforts and planning some aspects of my future are beyond my sphereof influence. That realization has given me permission not to kickmyself for the losses I have incurred. That can be a liberating thoughtin trying times like these, or any times at all.


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One response to “One View of Control and Circumstance”

  1. I was looking for graphs of wealth distribution in the USA and found your blog.I am pretty ignorant about financial stuff but your graphs and explanations helped a lot. Your blog is a treasure trove. Thanks!

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