Illusion of Control

I’ve always been fascinated by magic. As a young whipper-snapper, I had a set of metal rings and some trick cards. But I could never get the schtick down. I was too shy to put myself out there and really grab people’s attention (part of the reason I gravitated to writing and art, where I can hide behind the page).

Yet the idea of fooling the audience fascinated me. I often yearned more for the HOW than truly appreciating the actual trickery. I wanted to pull back the curtain and see the real Oz. That’s why I’m drawn time and again to Penn and Teller. They show you how to make the trick happen, and then trick you again. Such an addictive show.

Yet at its core, magic is just tricking us. Misdirecting the mind to see or think one way, when something covert happens just under the radar. We think we know what is going on, but we really have no clue. 

And this is true with life. We like to think we have a hand in what happens to us. That events fall into place with some pre-ordained purpose. But we don’t. My mind often grasps for reasons for this or that event. Was it trying to guide me to a certain outcome? A karmic life lesson?

And then the pandemic happened and I simply couldn’t rationalize that all this was happening just to affect me. The world was truly out of my control. 

Yet you can’t live your life as a helpless cork, bobbing through the seas of time. You have to at least feel like you have a modicum of control. 

It reminds me of the one time I went river rafting. We were suited up in protective gear and taught how to work the paddles to guide the raft. Yet as I zoomed down the river, sometimes at a drifting pace and others at a helter skelter race, I realized that I really had zero control over my outcome. The river was going to pull me down stream, like it or not. There was no fighting it. Yes, I could influence it a little (maybe steer clear of a dangerous rapid), but in the end, my efforts at controlling the raft amounted to squat.

Except, I would not feel the same had I stepped into the raft empty handed. I needed that paddle. Holding onto it and slapping it fruitlessly in the water comforted me. It was like those magicians who fluttered their hands and to draw your attention. My mind wasn’t thinking about the crushing watery death that might await around the next bend. Instead I could manage the ride because I thought I was in control. At least a little.

So as you traverse the dangerous waters of your life, remember to keep a death grip on that paddle. It probably doesn’t do a damned thing, but holding on to it makes us feel better. And either way, we’re going to be yanked down the river, so feeling okay about it is not such a bad thing. 

Tim Kane

One thought on “Illusion of Control

  1. We often overestimate how much control we have. But we also underestimate the power of free will and choice. We can try to choose paths that go in direction wanted or minimize going off path altogether.

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