Well, this is something a little different. I’ve been focussing on writing fiction of late but I stumbled across Sadje’s response to Fandango’s weekly Provocative Question and it has inspired me to wander a little off-piste.
As a rule, I avoid offering up opinions online, especially those that court controversy. They tend to become lightning rods for people with agenda’s and axes to grind. In reality, I’m just bored of the unimaginative rhetoric spouted by all sides of any well-travelled argument. Repeating what someone has said louder and with more venom is just self-indulgent at best, at worst it just drowns out that one voice that might be offering up something new. Not that I’m offering new, as I will now demonstrate below 😉
How much control do you believe you have over your own life?
My background and passion is computing and I tend to see the world a little in those terms. If I was writing a program I’d consider I had control when I controlled all the variables. A fool’s errand for even the most modest applications.
Trying to apply this idea of control to the real world, well I think Eric Idle’s inspired Galaxy Song captures it beautifully. That is to say, what control does a speck, sitting on a speck, rotating around a slightly bigger speck really have? Add to this chaos the accident of your birth, your upbringing, political, economic, geographical, social factors and it’s an ocean of variables beyond any hope of control.
Who wouldn’t throw their hands in the air and shake a fist at the cosmos’ cruel game? Except that’s not the case is it? Go on try it yourself, poke the person next to you, take another sip of your coffee, do a little dance (but don’t overdo it, you might get out of control). It’s too easy to say we don’t have control when in many instances we do.
We just don’t get to control everything, and just as well, we are fickle motes. Pity a universe that would dance to our tune, as you pity our world today. There’s a reason we don’t have control, it’s the same reason you don’t give children matches. So I am thankful that I (and we) don’t have control of everything.
To get back to the question at hand and skip the metaphysical ramblings. Do I have control of my life? I do, I decide when I sleep, what I eat and what I do with my time. There are many who don’t even have these luxuries, so I’m grateful for that. I’ve been lucky, my starting hand was better than many, no silver spoon but everything that really mattered.
I can control the little variables, although you’d question that if you saw me dance. I can’t control the big cosmic variables, so I treat them as constants. i.e. avoid sweating the small stuff and worrying about the stuff you can’t control. That leaves the pesky middle-ground, that’s what keeps us all up at night.
To my mind, control and by extension freedom is about choice. Every day I make choices, those choices in some instances open and close various doors. If there’s a trick to life it’s figuring out strategies that ensure you open more doors than you close. I’d rather be standing in a room with a dozen doors than be staring at a single door I don’t want to walk through, or worst.
What’s my point here? It’s simply that I believe I have control all the time there are choices/doors. Some of my doors have been obtained through luck, but far more are the result of deliberate well-weighed choices along the way.
I’m under no illusions though, in the long run, no one wins this particular game. You can make every right move, be a king or a pauper, all eventually will stand in a room with no doors. Checkmate! The only real trick is to ensure you have as many doors in front of you for as long as you can and that you take a moment or two to enjoy them along the way.
Cover image courtesy of: Greg Rakozy