Friday, February 20, 2015

FFF: Control


Last December, a fellow professor asked our freshmen class whether or not they felt they had complete control over their lives. Said question was prompted by an editorial on the subject of "Agency" by David Brooks at the New York Times.

How did the freshmen respond? A substantial, not to mention insouciant, majority claimed that they were in total control.

A few of us older folks chuckled. "Wait," we said. "There's a storm coming. It's called adulthood. It has the power and ability to knock you into places you never imagined being. Much of this can be due to happenstance...all largely out of your control."

To quote Yoda, responding to Luke Skywalker maintaining he was not afraid: "You will will be..."

Yes, yes, yes.

You can extol the platitude of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" when things get tough. And with good reason. There is at least a bit of truth to it. How we face adversity in large part is due to how much responsibility we take for ourselves. And yet...and yet...

"The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy or the grey aliens or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless."
--Alan Moore

At the beginning of this month, I was reminded of just how little control we can have sometimes. It was a Saturday and I had big plans. I was to do an improv show on campus with old college friends of mine and then drive back to Chicago to see my family. Not to mention watch the Super Bowl with them. A massive winter storm was due to hit that night and completely wreck those plans.

There was nothing I could do about the storm. I could watch it, track it, get the best guesses on what it would yield and when exactly it would hit. I was in control of what plans I would make and what adaptations I would enact in the face of the storm, but the weather itself? Not a damn thing I could do about it. That is aside from watching what I wanted to do get covered by a blizzard of snow and ice.

I had no control over that.

I think about all the times my success or failure was in someone else's hands. Sure, I could dot every i and cross every t, basically do every single thing I was supposed to do to the utmost of my ability, but in the end success might just come down to what mood someone was in that day. For me, it would be the most important moment of my life. For them, it was Tuesday.

I had no control over that ultimate decision.

"You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches."
--Dita von Teese.

How people in sales do it is beyond me.

But would we ever want complete control?

Would that make things boring? Too much? A great weight ever on our shoulders? For if we always had control, would not every outcome be our responsibility? Where does the philosophical if not actual obligation then lie?

On second thought, despite all of my manic tendencies, I can do without a portion of control.

"I am always with myself and it is I who am my tormentor."
--Leo Tolstoy

I think I'll just make this my theme song for every FFF.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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