What control?

A few days ago I found myself answering a question posed by a friend on how one has a semblance of control in life by saying ‘what control?’ On reflection I realised that I had let go of the desperate to find my place in the world and to be able to rationally explain what that was.

It is perhaps no coincidence that I was reading some Thomas Merton this week. I stumbled across this paragraph and found it both deeply resonant and disarming.

‘Nor do I promise to cheer anybody up with optimistic answers to all the sordid difficulties and uncertainties which attend the life of interior solitude. Perhaps in the course of these reflections, some of the difficulties will be mentioned. The first of them has to be taken note of from the very start: the disconcerting task of facing and accepting one’s own absurdity. The anguish of realising that underneath the apparently logical pattern of a more or less well organised and rational life, there lies an abyss of irrationality, confusion, pointlessness, and indeed apparent chaos. This is what immediately impresses itself upon the persona who has renounced diversion. It cannot be otherwise: for in renouncing diversion, he renounces the seemingly harmless pleasure of building a tight, self-contained illusion about himself and his little world. He accepts the difficulty of facing the million things in his life which are incomprehensible, instead of simply ignoring them. Incidentally it is only when the apparent absurdity of life is faced in all truth that faith really becomes possible. Otherwise, faith tends to be a kind of diversion, a spiritual amusement, in which one gathers up accepted, conventional formulas and arranges them in the approved mental patterns, without bothering to investigate their meaning, or asking if they have any practical consequences in one’s life’ (from Notes for the Philosophy of Solitude in Disputed Questions)

Certainly my own journey into my interior has been incomprehensible and yet in the chaotic darkness of unknowing there has been a gentle drawing which was my guide. As the lived experience of the chaos recedes I find I am changed – I no longer crave control.

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