Lose control……or have we already?

Lose control! screams the radio and the brief silence that follows seems to indicate that the advice has been taken by whoever it was targeted at. For most of mankind though, I think this is stating the obvious – we have lost control way back – and maybe more pertinently, we probably never had it in the first place!

Let’s start with me and you can agree as we go along.

Here’s an obvious fact – my job determines my financial security (or so I am told). However, my paycheck depends not only on my work but for a large part on how the market views my company’s (and countries and industry and numerous other things) performance. I for one have no clue how the market works and the quants (and the folks at wall street and their comrades worldwide) seem to be equally clueless on how the markets work, if the recent bubbles and troubles are anything to go by. Seems to me if a housing bubble in the US can derail Iceland – we should view Financial security like we do santa – we need some great parents to ensure holidays continue to charm.

The family – of course that’s under our control – you say? If you were ever a teenager or have a teenager at home, we don’t have to be debating this further – and if you still don’t believe me, ask your mother! Of course, you could have a semblance of control in a paternal society especially if you were the pater….but even so, you know this is but a temporary phenomena….

Onto more universal stuff – namely the five building blocks of air, water, fire, ether and earth as postulated by the ancients. These are controlled it appears, but not by you. Samsung (or your air conditioner company) determines the quality of air you breathe (global warming, pollution and such of course also contribute much) , the government determines how much water you deserve (and of course what additives the water should have, so it’s not even h2o in the strictest sense anymore). We’ve experienced the earth second-hand through cement and concrete for so long that we’ve collectively forgotten what it means to walk barefoot on earth and watch the sky (the atrium takes its place now!). Fire – we experience through our bunsen cookers and cigar lighters. Ether (which is meant to be the fundamental substratum in which everything’s present) – we don’t even worry about – and if we do, our new age gurus help us with the introductions at 500 bucks a pop. These truly aren’t fundamental building blocks from our perspective anymore – and the only way we can control (or even be informed) about any of these is through the middle man and our TV box..

Our own body, we don’t know much about anyway. Our heart beats and we breathe in oxygen – until of course we stop doing so. We (and our doctors) can and should help do everything possible for a richer, healthier life – but you can’t guarantee life – the strings are held truly by a higher power (or chance if you are an atheist).

Let’s take a pause – If you have popped in before into this blog, you are probably wondering what recent event has so skewed my normally positive outlook of life (“do you think he lost the lottery again by a single digit dear?” you ask). Is this my most depressing post ever? Maybe. Looked another way though, it’s perhaps my most liberating effort too. Let me explain.

Last week, I drifted down to the temple and gazed at the numerous portraits of enlightened men and women they had placed on the major hall. There were close to 40 folks – of all shapes and sizes. Some sages were muscular, some frail. Some were bearded, some clean shaven and bald. There were householders and renunciates, educated folks and simpletons – all beaming down upon us from their frames. And just as I was wondering what could be the one thing that made these folks revered (while millions of their fellow men and women have been lost in the dust of history), my attention moved on to their countenance. Without exception, they all seemed serene and mirthful, and had a twinkle in their eyes. It was as if they shared a secret, but it was so open that they were filled with wonder on how we didn’t get it.

What could this secret be I wondered..and wondered. And the more I thought about it, the Gita kept playing over and over in my mind. The gita for those not acquainted with it takes place amidst a dramatic background of war where the lord Krishna advices a forlorn warrior king Arjuna over the course of 600 aphorisms to fight the rightful fight(Arjuna, a supreme warrior on the eve of the war with his cousins wonders if it’s really worth it – would it not be better to just give up the fight and retire than win the kingdom – rightful though it may be – at the cost of countless lives). The lord advices the warrior king to do his job (fight!) and leave the results to providence – for it is the fear of poor results that often prevents us from giving our best.

Could this be the secret – could these wise souls be counseling us to – “accept that there’s a lot of stuff that’s not in your control, but go give it your best anyway”. The stress and strain of life ebb away, leaving us with the zest and energy for the job alone without squandering energy fretting over the outcome.

Thought this way, we have options galore before us:

– dont fret when you are snubbed by those around you, they are outside your span of control. Continue cultivating good friendships and see where that leads you

– don’t be obsessed about how long you are going to live, the end of the world or a bad politician. Take care of your health, contribute to a greener world and vote – but accept the fact that the results are not under your control. Of course Nostradamus and your neighborhood astrologer aren’t going to be pleased…

– don’t lose your cool over a traffic jam. Or over a bad show by your favorite team (fill in the blanks with nba, ipl, epl or whatever works for you) or index (sensex, nse..). Cheer them, but don’t let your happiness depend on the outcome of these events.

That’s a lot of stress out of the way. And I think a very sensible way to live life – maybe you already live life this way and if so, you must be a very happy soul indeed.

Which brings me to the moment. Here I am standing in front of my boss’s office just about to deliver some bad news. I wonder if he’ll buy the argument that it was beyond my control..maybe I’ll just put the blame on the tantalum market in Congo and get away with it…

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