One of the greatest of all illusions is the belief that we are “in control.”
It is tough for any human being to realize and accept that most of what happens in life is beyond our control. Furthermore, it is especially difficult to trust that this is a good thing. The fact of the matter, however, is that much in life happens without any apparent reason and for no apparent cause.
The key word here is “apparent.” In reality, there are no coincidences in life and everything fits into a bigger plan. This is not to say that everything that happens is logical or even understandable. And it is not to say that everything that happens is “good.” It is to say, however, that good can come out of anything if we trust the process.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell goes so far as to say that, when we grow older and look back upon our lives, we can all see that none of us lived the life that we had planned to live. However, we can also see and accept that we all lived the life that we were supposed to live.
In the meantime, we are challenged to accept and surrender to life as it continues to unfold. This word “surrender” inevitably makes most of us squirm. That is because the word “surrender” is frequently equated with defeat. In the realm of spiritual growth, however, this kind of surrender paradoxically leads to victory.
When we are struggling with the need to surrender- or not- to a Higher Power, we frequently have the following dream: we find ourselves falling and falling through space. Have you ever had that dream? Most of us have, including myself. This dream is either telling us that we are feeling out of control or we need to let go of our illusion of control.
In a medieval Tarot card called the Wheel of Fortune, the illusion of control is illustrated in four figures, all fixed to a wheel. The first figure is rising to the top, in full stride, confident of one day being in control. This figure has donkey ears that are beginning to grow. This person actually believes that he or she will one day get it all together.
The figure at the top , with donkey ears fully grown, holds her scepter proudly, thinking that they are in total control.
The figure toppling on down from the top is not in much better shape. This person says, “I used to be in control!” Pathetically, this figure (who is growing a tail) has not learned anything at all. He actually thinks that there was a time when he was in control of things.
The only fully human figure is an old man who kneels on all fours and states humbly Sum sine regno (I am without reign). This old gentleman has learned the hard way that we are not the masters of our own destinies.
All of this is not to say that we are just puppets without any free will. We can, indeed, make choices within the limited parameters that life presents to us. And these decisions are important. They help define our character and determine much of what will unfold in our lives. But so, so much is simply out of our hands. A change in our health or in the health of a loved one, a change in the worldwide economy, a change in our interpersonal relationships, or a thousand other variables can make us realize that we are not calling the shots in life.
We do our best, but then we need to detach from the consequences. Something bigger than us is steering the ship.
Next posting: Seven Stages of Growth
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