The course of things

Why are we uneasy? What is the source of our nervousness? Even of our (Kierkegaard called it) “fear and trembling”? We may think our worry is on behalf of another’s well-being or the success of some long-term project dependent on a series of tenuous decisions. Ultimately, our anxiety is a matter of control, even of power.

We want to control outcomes — outcomes for others, outcomes of our decision-making, outcomes for our life goals. We tell ourselves that the good for all is at stake, that love is our motive, that from love springs our interventions, intentions, fears, prayers, wishes.

But seen from without, even ourselves looking from outside, we know that love and intentions cannot change anything, that our desire for control or power over outcomes is a vanity we entertain for ourselves, telling ourselves that the purity of our intentions justifies our concern. But concern hovers around outcomes which we desire. How will we measure control and success? How will hopes avoid wants and wants be reconciled to the natural course of events?

Or is there a “natural” course of events? The dilemma of predestination and free will is not resolved in our secular world anymore than in the past. We still don’t understand outcomes, what makes for given outcomes. We cannot know all of the contingencies, the panoply of what is called karma in the East or the mind of God in the West. Science maintains that evolution is mindless, random, and chaotic — while pointing to a universal body of physical laws, necessary mathematics, and behavioral explanations of mind. And while we witness the character of human beings over thousands of yers, or over the course of our lives in society and social circumstances. And into such an ontological swirl is to be put the petty insistences of one human being?

The better course is clearly not to insist, hope, desire, or demand. We guide our lives like slow craft, making micro adjustments as the terrain or lapping waves show ahead. Yet there are major adjustments demanded of us — not us demanding of life. These are of diet, disposition, discernment, peace of mind, security. We think that we can stop taking stock of our spiritual and mental resources, make a few amendments as needed — but then go back to the same dependent course.

We may object that such adjustments to the course of life may take a lifetime. And indeed they will. We may never leave our metaphoric port at such a rate. Or we may venture a bit and go back discouraged, afraid, or dejected. But if all the work of preparation is done, or even if we know that the right assembly is progressing, then we will arrive at our destination sufficient to our mind and spirit, sufficient for our self. We will arrive just in time, even as we are found to be in the midst of preparation.