People crave certainty.
We want to know, for sure, what the results will be of our actions. We want to be able to predict what is going to happen in the world, and in our lives.
Two examples spring to my mind.
1. The daily weather forecast.
Every day millions of people listen to, watch or read the weather forecast. We want to predict what the weather will be like tomorrow, in a few days time, next week or the week after even……
2. The focus on “outcomes”.
Knowing for sure the results of our actions – in Medicine, we want to know for sure what will happen if we have treatment X, and we want to know for sure what diseases we will get and what effects they will have on us. In Economics, we want to know for sure that if we introduce this particular policy then it will have the results we desire. In engineering we want to know for sure that the machines we make will consistently and reliably do the job we design them to do.
That’s how it is for us humans. We’re afraid. We know that none of us live for ever but that’s a terrible knowledge to have. We want power over the unpredictable. We want to control the present in order to control the future.
But does the world work like that? Is Life like that?
I don’t believe those who predict futures, but I’ll listen to what they have to say, and make some choices all the same. If the weather forecast says it’s going to pour with rain tomorrow but has a good chance of being sunny in a couple of days time, I might choose to put off my trip to the beach tomorrow, and, instead, to plan to go in a couple of days time.
But do you know what I find most satisfying of all?
To “seize the day”.
If I wake up tomorrow and the forecast is wrong…..there’s bright sunshine and clear blue skies, then it’s great to set off to the coast, and not wait for a “better day” a couple of days ahead.
And what about control – of diseases, of economies, of machines and so on? We don’t control any of that.
Look at that lighthouse in the image above.
Does it control the Atlantic Ocean?
Does it ensure that shipping will not hit rocks?
No, neither of those things.
It gives us the opportunity to be aware, and so let’s us make adaptive choices. (In the case of the lighthouse, to be aware of the rocky coast and to change direction)
But if the opposite of control and prediction is “out of control” and unpredictable, then I don’t know any human beings who can manage to live that way.
So, for me, it’s not about trying to be out of control or to relish unpredictability. Despite the fact that the delusions of control and fallibility of predictability will always be unsatisfying, disappointing or frustrating.
I do think there is another way.
The other way has something to do with awareness, with resilience, and with living in the present moment, but I think I’ll take the time to explore that in more detail in future posts.