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Control is an illusion

April 8, 2010

Start / Stop by Compound Eye, on flickr

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about control. Specifically how much you need. Do you need to control everything or just some aspects of your life? In the end I came to the conclusion that the question is irrelevant because control itself is an illusion.

Say what? You’re saying that trying to control your life is foolish? Yes, indeed. The concept of control comes from what physicists like to call a deterministic world-view (I used to be a physics student, I apologize in advance). In this worldview everything has a predetermined state and place. This makes the world sound like a very simple and organized system. At a first look our world seems to answer to this view. However if you look deeper a funny thing starts to happen. The simple fact that you are watching changes the outcome of the game. Those bright minds call that quantum mechanics. This relates of course to how the physical world works but a similar analogy can be made to our daily lives.

If you wish to control all aspects of your life you need to be continuously alert. You need to know everything about everything in order to know how it will affect your life. The problem is that the moment you try to take control of something the situation will change just because you are taking control. This means that you need to reassess the whole situation. When trying to take control of that new situation everything changes again. This is a vicious circle with only one conclusion: the idea that you can take control of anything is like forcing a static world onto an ever-changing reality. It might look as if it makes the world easier but the control you think you have is fake.

What would the more realistic approach be? Accept the fact that the world changes and you cannot take control of the situation. Go with the flow and try to be mindful of your choices. In this way the future might have that outcome that you were hoping for.

ps. Yesterday I went to yoga for the first time. I am a little sore at the moment but it was great!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Frank permalink
    April 10, 2010 16:27

    Are you implying that taking control over ANYTHING is impossible? Because that would be a mistake: it turns you into a reagens only. At some point, someone has to decide to do something. Total control is a myth, sure, but most situations do not need total control. Most of the time, knowing what the key elements are doing is more than enough.

    • April 10, 2010 20:42

      What I am trying to say is that the idea that you have control over a situation is unrealistic. Control and acting mindfully are different things. To act instead of reacting is different than taking control. Taking control is trying to make a situation static/permanent. I’m saying that that notion is ridiculous.

  2. Frank permalink
    April 11, 2010 11:49

    And I’m saying that’s bull. It’s an apologetic and fatalist stance. I’m not saying people should fight the tide or push the plates tectonic, I’m just saying that knowing what you and other people are doing, calculating in advance what the biggest risks will be, THAT’s taking control. The fact that there are always variables, that’s life.

    It’s a semantic difference, I know, but I detest these harh and silly statements that sound involved and world-wise, but are actually trite and self-explanatory. It’s like saying that the sky isn’t blue, it’s just our perception. Well duh, it’s how the light scatters and whatever. In the meanwhile, the sky still looks blue.

    Stuff happens. It’s a fact. A lot of stuff we cannot change or fit into neat little boxes, but look around: we built skyscrapers, cties, we killed most of the animals that used to live here and I’m graduating this year. That’s what the English language calls control.

    • April 11, 2010 17:34

      I agree that it is a semantic difference. But I’m not being fatalistic. The only thing I’m trying to say is that thinking that you’re in control is naive. That does not mean you shouldn’t do anything but you must accept that things usually don’t go according to plan. That’s why I am saying that people should try to make their choices mindfully and accept change.

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