Control is one of the grandest illusions of all time. This illusion is pervasive and deliberate, but also invisible and unconscious. We really believe we are in control of our lives. The true lack of control of what happens to and around us is masked by routines which form the parameters of daily life. We’ve also made subtle agreements with those around us concerning who controls what areas of our work, home and social worlds. This way either we are personally in control or accept another’s control. In the background we remind ourselves we can change their control over us any time we want, so again, we aren’t faced with the prospect/reality of living a life we can’t really control.

This illusion of control is unmasked a hundred times a day, but we cling to the illusion like a life raft after a shipwreck. When is the last time you missed a green light, were in a traffic jam, got hit in a parking lot, had a call dropped on your cell phone, or had an appointment canceled? We accept these are breaks in control routinely, but still believe we control our lives. The real breakdowns in the illusion of control come when there is an injury or death in our immediate sphere. That’s undeniable proof that we are not running the show.

So what if it’s an illusion? I like the feeling of control rather than chaos. So what if I’m a control freak? It works for me just fine. At the center of control is the big “I”. I can do what I want, when, and how I want etc., unless of course, something intervenes. “I” is of course, the center of the universe.

Unfortunately “I” isn’t the center and I have limited, sporadic control of life. The best I might do to prove control is say “I will smoke this cigarette now,” and do it. Of course where and when that can happen is becoming more and more limited. It also begs the question, “If you are in control, can you not smoke that or any other cigarette for the next 6 months?” It’s just a thought. It applies to a 1,000 things in my life, when I look. The illusion is in any case shattered, and yet I believe or have a habit of believing.

The question that arises is, “What’s the cost of wanting to or needing to control everything? If we’re fighting for control, it’s pretty hard to recognize and allow good stuff to happen. It’s the same with the bad stuff. The “control world” is unreal and dangerous. It’s also a world that promotes frustration and anger from not getting what we want, when we want it.

What helps unlock the gearbox of control? A slam-dunk is to travel to a new place with a language we don’t know. Lack of control is omnipresent, but I can almost accept that in a foreign but exciting and rewarding setting. None-the-less, it is a constant reminder of the reality of no control. Other ways? If I am for a moment angry, upset or frustrated, for sure it’s from something I would like to control and couldn’t.

The bottom line is that wanting and needing control precludes almost everything else I need and want, from great friendships to a clear and healthy mind and body. The truth is: “We do what we do and get what we get.” Period. Or “It is what it is.” I need to let go a bit. I can’t truly control life anyway.


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Having journeyed to the Far East and Asia over 20 times in the past 20 years, I’ve been intrigued and inspired by the ingenuity, craftsmanship, balance and human spirit that have gone into the making of those works I have seen and collected.

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