“Stop trying to control everything and just let go! LET GO!” Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
“Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen next: not on a freeway, not in an airplane, not inside our own bodies and certainly not on a racetrack with 40 other infantile egomaniacs. Nobody knows and nobody controls anything. Now, you’ve gotten a glimpse of that and you’re scared.” Dr Claire Lewick (Days of Storm)
Rui Vitoria, Benfica’s football coach, when asked on why he had never brought up the fact that a lot of key players weren’t available due to injury, replied “I don’t complain about the things I can’t control” and I thought, “Here’s a man who doesn’t complain at all”.
What is control?
I tend to agree with Dr Claire’s assessment – control, for the most part, is an illusion. I propose that control is a product of our minds, with the sole function of appeasing our fears.
– I’m afraid of traffic accidents, so I drive safely, attentively, respect the rules and have my car regularly serviced. I’m in control of my safety.
– I’m afraid I might get cancer or a heart attack, so I eat healthy food, exercise and do regular check-ups. I’m in control of my health.
– I’m afraid my house might burn, so I install smoke detectors and have fire extinguishers in accessible places. I’m in control of my property’s protection.
– I’m afraid I might go hungry, so I plant potatoes and breed sheep. I’m in control of my nourishment.
– I’m afraid of lacking money, so I endure a job that I hate and that’s slowly killing me by working long hours and draining my vitality. I’m in control of my job security.
– I’m afraid of a nuclear war, so I build a bunker with water and food for 10 years. I’m in control of my survival.
Understandably, none of the above examples is accurate – I’m in control of nothing. There are numerous factors, unforeseen circumstances that will change the anticipated end result.
However, whilst we can never really control anything, we are able to contribute to and influence the outcome of whatever it is we’re trying to achieve:
– if I drive slowly and safely I’m less likely to have an accident;
– if I eat well and exercise regularly my chances of having a serious health problem are reduced;
– if I have no smoke detectors nor fire extinguishers, my house is more likely to burn in case of a fire;
– if there’s a nuclear war, we’re all fucked.
In the end, it comes down to probabilistic reasoning and risk management.
That is why I work hard at educating my girls; not because I want to ensure they will become extraordinary human beings, but because I want to increase that probability. I work hard at conveying my values so they will be principled women, who look after each other, nature and others.
I know I have an immense influence in carving their characters, but I cannot control what they’ll turn out to be. Is it possible they both become immoral and dishonest people? Yes it is, but not probable.
Having said all of the above, I also put up for consideration the following: There is in fact one thing we can control… our decisions. Not the outcome, just the choice itself.