The Illusion of Control

Here’s a conversation that I just overhead in a restaurant.  Actually it wasn’t much of a conversation.  It was more of a one-sided announcement.  “I don’t fly anymore because of that plane that went down in the water.  I mean, if it was a terrorist attack that would have been okay because that’s just a freak thing.  It’s not like they’re going to attack all the airlines.  But a mechanical malfunction …. I just can’t do that.”

What sense does that make?  I wanted to ask why a terrorist attack is a freak thing but a malfunction that has never occurred before is not a freak occurrence.  I suppose it doesn’t matter that it is profoundly illogical.  She feels like she is in control with that belief.  It makes her feel better.  It’s the illusion of control.  Of course, it’s based on an absurdity.  But she feels like she’s in charge of her own destiny, or demise, or well-being, or something that she wants to be in charge of.  Her reasoning was preposterous, but so is mine.  Mine are just more sophisticated.  The route to success, the way to insure a happy marriage, religious beliefs, being nice to everyone, maintaining power.  These are all fraught with beliefs that are meant to control my own destiny.  Even the notion of “destiny” is a manner of controlling life.  Perhaps the ultimate irony is that life begins with the release of all control and giving ourselves to the not knowing.  Perhaps freedom only arrives in being “out of control”.

After the woman made her plane travel declarations, another person at the table said, “I suppose when it’s time for you to go then it doesn’t matter where you are.  You’re going to go.”  Although that one sounds a bit better, maybe it’s just a more sophisticated version of control.  It is profoundly difficult to let go of thinking that “I know”.