Control is a community managed resource

There are times of quiet grace, peace, and joy in all of our lives. For me: times sitting on a dock, or enjoying a meal. But there are also, for all of us, times of pain, suffering, and desperation. Not to make a joke of it, but I think of the saying, “Life: No one gets out alive.”

About two weeks ago I posted as my Facebook status, “Control is over-rated: Discuss.” I got some very interesting comments. I think the positivity of control is largely an issue of balance. I wrote something similar about Pride a few weeks ago, which you can see here. Im a big fan of E.B. White, who once wrote a version of a psalm in saying,

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

When I hear and see pain in the world Im always brought to the moment with that feeling White describes. What should I be doing about this? I experienced that tension vibrantly the other day. I met a new friend and colleague for a very enjoyable lunch. We sat outside. As I was stuffing my mouth with my first big bite – and I do mean, like, stuffing my mouth – a homeless person walked by and asked for change. Im mumbling a denial of money for food as Im stuffing my face with a really delicious salad.

I wrote in an earlier post about how money buys you isolation. It buys you distance from many of the pains that people without money go through. That does not negate the pains that we all have. But we all do not share the same amount of control. For some reason it seems that those with more control should (and I mean this morally) try to give some of that control to the people with less of it. Gloriously, lots of people with greater control have been with that project for some time.

There are sad, internal times in all our lives. A friends mother is suffering from cancer. I can see what that feels like. And there is no way to control it. It is like flying in a helicopter upside down. We control each other so little, and influence each other so very much. This is a lot of thoughts for one post. I’ll end with this possibility: The less control you have, the simpler things are. Control is a complication managed by our collective humanity.

I don’t want to pollute this idealistic post with the crass realism of the real world. But that is in fact where we all live. It’s because of the project I’m working on that I’ve been thinking about control. Dylan Thomas created these characters who are good, and bad, and who all influence one another. In the preface to my book (out in two weeks!) I quote Albert Einstein who said that we should seek the simplest solutions and not simpler. I believe that understanding control as a community managed resource can help us negotiate sharing of our capacity to influence each other toward the good.