The Illusion Of Control

These dumbasses are constantly interrupting me, consider this post an interruption

When I wake up the cat follows me downstairs and I let the dog in and they both get into some form of chaos while I'm trying to pray. If I'm lucky, no one's destroyed the tissue boxes or taken a sneaky shit. On a good day, they just chase each other around and under me while I'm trying to prostrate. One should be so blessed, really. It's a curse to take yourself seriously.

Then I see the old man, 94-years old now, with the great-grandchildren crawling all over him. They have no idea 'who' he is at all, and don't care. He's had a long and well-respected career, but it ends like this, surrounded by rodents demanding cheese. In old age the greatest reward is not reputation among your (disappearing) peers, but the mere presence of the next generation, who will love you even if you have only a tin of biscuits and a kind heart left to your name. I should be so lucky, some day, inshallah.

I think then, of our assassinated uncle, honestly the best uncle, and how he won't see his own grandchildren. How is that fair? He did so much good for so many people, and—in the true spirit of giving—not mindlessly but mindfully. He could see when people were in need and he helped them without being asked, and generously, like he was giving to himself. I think then of the Quran, the Bible, or any message from God, which clearly says store your treasure in heaven, through kindness to other beings. When They 'roll up the heavens like a scroll of parchment' surely Din Anna's deeds will be written there, and given to his right hand. Though still grieving, this I believe.

The entire way of the world is thinking that we can have our way with the world, that if we have the right mindset or set of products or sheer wealth and power we can have control, and thus relief. But this is wholly illusory. It never works, as hard as people work at it. It's not just that wealth and power are illusory, but that the self that we try to 'create the best version' of is, in fact, illusory as well. The self is a collection of aggregates, a bunch of references to other states, to other people, to other times, a not very special relativity. Being selfish is literally nihilism. There's nothing there at the center, just a furious spinning. It's literally building castles out of sand, and calling ourselves philosopher kings. Every day brings waves of erosion, until it's all finally swept away.

Control, ie attachment, is actually the root cause of suffering. The illusion that we can sustain the illusion is what causes so much pain. As the Quran says, “there are indeed signs for people who use their reason,” the rains, the plants, the destruction of every single city and person before us. The flowers rotting at the feet of the Buddha. Christ himself on the cross. Control is the mother of all illusions, and clinging is the very cause of loss.

You don't have to be a monk or experience the sublime to know this. You can have children or even pets, creatures that just don't care at all, the sages of obliviousness. In their unknowing they know more than the wisest of us all. Right now, for example, the cat is putting his paws on the keyboard while the dog explores a room, looking for trouble most certainly, which I will have to clean up. We think these creatures are dumb, but perhaps animals don't talk because there's nothing to say. Indeed, the core injunction of meditation is just shutting up. We prattle on and call it progress, until the hot air literally kills everyone.

We feel bad because we're not rich or famous, but just look at those people. They look miserable. Are they any happier than a man with a tin of biscuits and grandchildren? There's just a point of diminishing returns, and honestly it starts from the first moment of attachment. And yet in every connection there's a moment of detachment, where you think about somebody/something else. And this release from the self is where we seem to find the most meaning and indeed happiness. Nobody sits on their deathbed counting their money or newspaper clippings. They think about relationships.

And yet, in life, we're always putting those relationships off to do 'more important' stuff. As the Buddha said, “Viewing the non-essential as the essential and the essential as the non-essential they—nourished on false thinking—do not arrive at the essential.” And so we all arrive at our final destination, firmly rooted in ignorance, confusing interruptions with the main program.

I think of this as I'm playing with dinosaur toys, or cleaning shit off the rug. No, actually I don't. I'm just thinking of it now. I'm as firmly engrossed in the illusion of control as anybody else, but every now and then some of the lesser philosophers of the world will interrupt to teach me something, though I'd rather be on my phone. This world cannot be controlled and, indeed, should not be controlled. That way lies grasping, and losing, and suffering, no matter what you hold. But if you let other things hold you, you can—even if just for an instant—be carried like a leaf on a stream, not in fear and trembling every moment, but just going.