I stumbled across a tweet the other day that alluded to man’s desire for control in all things. It is something I’ve spent a ton of time thinking about in trying to root out that idol in my own life. In thinking about it, I’ve come to a surprising conclusion that really shouldn’t be so surprising.
Almost everything we do, buy, and aspire to be is tied to our deep yearning for control.
It is most clear to me in traffic. I am not opposed to traffic, I understand why it exists, and I know exactly how to avoid it. And yet, at times, I am stuck in it. My blood pressure is rising just thinking about it. I want to be where I want to be when I want to be there. And all of the other people are crowding the highway and usurping my will!!
We hate being out of control.
Have a smart phone? You control information. Directions to the restaurant, communication over various streams, memories in the form of snapshots.
Have a mortgage? You control your residential destiny. No one can kick you out or tell you that you can’t paint that accent wall lime green.
Have a pet? You control another life. Tell it to sit, it sits. Want it to stop chewing your TOMS? Yell at it and it loves and needs you to survive. Without you, it dies of starvation (or at least lack of Beggin’ Strips).
It isn’t fun to start thinking about it at first, this concept of just how desperate we are to control something.
The reality is that all of our control mechanisms really just control us, rein us in, and provide certainty.
The mortgage is a self-made prison spread out over thirty years, which features some financial benefits and a bunch of geographic constraints.
That dog that adores you and is loyal to a fault (providing certainty of affection as you walk in the front door) requires all sorts of resources, including food and exercise and (gasp) you to pick up its poop. Who is in control there again?
That iPhone keeps you connected and in control of all of the data in the world and also serves as an anchor tying you to an office you should be free from, Facebook statuses you shouldn’t care about (but do), and the power of Google in your hand. All of this creates a NEED to know and an immediacy about information that has you spending more time staring and swiping at a phone than you’d like to admit.
Helicopter parents aren’t really maniacal deviants, they’re just trying to force an outcome and eliminate as many (uncontrollable) variables as possible.
Dog owners aren’t latent slave-holders, but simply people who have no control over so many things (work, traffic, illness, recession) that having absolute dominion over even one thing sounds like a great idea.
Home-owners aren’t idiots. At least in Texas they aren’t. No need to sell out and become a gypsy family or fret about the economy. Let it ride, move when you need to, and relax a bit - it’ll be worth what it’ll be worth when it’s time to sell.
And, while we’re thinking about it, don’t go throwing your iPhone12 into a lake as a sign of your freedom. Desiring access (read: control) to all of the data streams of your life isn’t wrong, although it may not be entirely healthy.
So what do we do about it?
Being aware, in this case, might be enough. It adds perspective and allows us to make small changes to release our death grip on the controllable aspects of life. Turn off the Email Indicator on your phone. Buy a cat (nah). Let your kid do (or fail to do something) on their own.
And next time you’re in traffic, ease up. Nothing you can do about it anyway. Use that time to check your email again or read more about someone’s perfect life on Facebook. That should help.