“Trust in the universe” my mind echoes dramatically at any situation where I feel the loss of control.
Rationalists are those of us who believe that the world is made up of perceptions projected by our subjectivity. In other words, the rose coloured glasses analogy is a rational concept that suggests the mind has the ability to view the world, or certain experiences in ways within our control.
Empiricists are those who believe the world exists outside of our perception, our understanding of it reflects the way the world is objectively. In other words, there are truths in the world that are out of our control; when an unfortunate event occurs, an unfortunate reaction to it can often be expected.
A dilemma which presents itself as a fork in the road often creeps into my mind when attempting to make an important decision; do I let it go, or do I go get it?
Courage and Serenity
I’ve always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Many believe that it’s an attempt at reviving determinism and thus the forfeiting of control. For me it’s the ability in remembering that we are part of a machine, a puzzle, a timetable that is bigger and more complex than us. To think that humans alone bear the free will to conceptualize the future, and are the only species that does so, its egoistic in my opinion. The idea that humans are the centre of the universe is to say that we are independent and that other beings occupying the earth are therefore dependent; especially since we are reluctant to confess that other beings are anywhere close to being on par with human intelligence. To me, the claim that the world is not deterministic, breeds the conclusion that humans are ‘special’ in a way that exceeds natural laws applicable to other beings. This makes even less sense then admitting that the world relies on some order.
To think that everything happens for a reason is not the submission of control over one’s own life, but the confession that the world has its reason that exceed our understanding. Like the quote;
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference”
being relieved of control can feel liberating; free of responsibility and anxiety like a baby or train that is simply guided in the right direction. Knowing that everything happens for a reason forces a trust in the universe that everything will be alright in the end. The courage is to know that whatever happens, is an occurrence of the world for a purpose that is above our own. For example, as children the idea of death can scare many; to think that someone or something can be gone forever is a fear that begins within us all from a young age. A concept I was lucky to learn was that every occurance is a lesson in disguise — a common Buddhist belief. This rationale allows for unpleasant things to bear within them a lesson that can create better endings in the future (if learnt). This idea breeds motivation in the individual to intellectualize situations and see them for what they are, rather than submitting to an emotion that arises out of consequence. The power to realize when an emotion is unwarranted, or better yet, to look at the emotion as another event rather than be completely immersed in it, which blinds us of reality. Death happens, not just in people or living things, but in occurrences; instances, times, events, thoughts and emotions. Everything has an ending; that’s why everything has a moment, that is the way of the world. To dramatize the concept of the end would be foolish, and moreover to be overwhelmed or swallowed by the mourning of it, is even less practical. To realize that deaths are lessons even of the cruelest kind, is to accept the things you cannot change, trusting that the world has a better plan for you.
Where rationalists say that freedom lies in the ability to project subjective ideologies onto events and circumstances, empiricists believe freedom lies in the truth. Even here the concept of everything happening for a reason can be applied to the idea of freedom. By learning the truths of the world, understanding the way that it ticks, and being able to readily translate it to the way we behave, is freedom. For example, to know that I have the ability to tell someone I love them, and that saying that is going to increase the possibility of them loving me back, is freedom. The knowledge that causality is a true concept that can be analyzed and suppressed into probability outcomes, is freedom. It gives us the ability to, as many believe, rise above. The ability to know better, and thus to make decisions accordingly. It’s the courage to change the things we can, and moreover actually doing it.
Wisdom to Know the Difference
Imagine then that you arrive at your forked path, one green sign hovering over the left path reads “go get it”, the other on the right “let it go”, the sun blazing hard reflecting off the coloured metal blinds both eyes. Do we analyze our choices through empiricists’ or through rationalists’ sunglasses?
You’re in high school on social media and your crush shows up with a little green circle attached to the top right of their name, signifying they’re ‘online’. You are faced with a dilemma; you’re not sure what this boy thinks of you, and you are caught in a social construct that is on the brisk of change, confused as to what behaviour is deemed appropriate; besides you’re young and in high school, figuring out what character you want to be. Do you trust the world, knowing that if its meant to be it will come? Or do you message him regardless of the repercussion, taking hold of your own desires without compromise? You wonder what it means to trust the world, thinking that is it not the world telling you that you have this desire? Isn’t waiting for it to come just as good as you being the change coming? Could the worlds way of working, the signs that we look for, come out as projections of our desires and the way we want to execute them? In other words, your desire to text him, right then and there, taking hold of the situation regardless of the outcome, is that not the same as trusting that the world will give you a sign? A sign in the shape of a motivation to do something?
Think again that you have just broken up with a partner of yours. You are feeling sad, assign your emotions over the breakup, confusing yourself in your own drama of emotions. You question whether your sadness is warranted of some explanation you are not seeing, whether you maybe made a mistake. On the one hand you’re told to sit tight, to let life run its course, to trust in the universe that if its meant to be it will be. On the other hand, you question whether your devastation is a sign that it’s meant to be. Whether your desire to seek comfort from the loss of something is a manifestation of the universe telling you to go get it. You become stuck between existentialism and determinism; the idea that you are the change that happens, versus the idea that change comes as it may, determined by a universal law of causation. But even then, your mind trips up, its inability to sit still patiently brings doubt on whether the law of causation is inclusive or exclusive of your primal thoughts and motivations. You reason accordingly every time.
As people, we tend to look for answers at extremes, for binary constructs are the ones most evident to us. Its either all in or all out, all or none, pros and cons — that’s the way we organize. It’s easier for us to categorize things into either right or wrong on either ends of the spectrum; we allow our rationalist selves to tell us that it’s in our power to exceed all limits of the world. We enjoy knowing that we are in control of our own lives. The empiricist in all of us tells that there is a right and wrong way to act; a rule of causality that pressures our decisions in hopes of perceived outcomes. We are free to cheat on our spouses knowing the circumstances of taking responsibility for the downfall, if it occurs. The freedom to know better.
So we are caught in a dilemma between the two schools of thought; does one take control of the situation, or does one realize that it’s out of one’s control? Does one apply serenity or courage?
The answer is always too hard for the mind to grasp at first glance; but is always a balance of the two means. Here enters the art of waiting.
I’ve learnt recently that the dilemma is unsolvable, the answer is neither ‘do it’ nor ‘don’t’. Instead, have patience that the universe will bring to you an answer, rather than looking for one on your own.
My great grandmother fell so deep into depression that she lost the motivation to get out of bed. She sat under the covers with the shutters closed, bleaching out from lack of sun, pruning from lack of social contact. She learnt to despise anything and everything that guilted her into getting out of her comforting den. ‘Why do anything’, she thought. Life occurs anyways, with or without you, and nihilism is real. The loss of meaning derived from the realization that human civilization created nothing but a dent in the history of the universe. As time goes by, history becomes a story and nothing more. This may be true but this is not the mastering of the art of waiting, this is the art of giving up.
Waiting and giving up are very different. One is the complete giving away of control past the level of the self. Waiting, is the hope of having control when the time is right, and being patient within the gaps of life. The control is of the individual’s self, not of the world. It is wrong to grasp for control over the occurrences of the world, but instead we must appreciate the control we have of ourselves when we navigate through the uncontrollable forces of life. It’s knowing that we have the ability to be serene when we can’t control, and the confidence that the courage will come in the instances we can control. The wisdom of knowing the difference is the art of waiting.
When wanting an agent to represent me as a talented actress, I project into the universe that it is a desire of mine. I go about my life and create for myself an identity that goes beyond my ability to reach that goal. Whether or not I find an agent does not define me. When opportunities arise that could potentially bring me to that goal, I take them. I don’t seek people out to use in order to achieve what I want forcefully. I trust in the universe that if it is the right time for me to find an agent, the ways of the world will surely bring me nowhere but there. It’s not the giving up of motivation either. I don’t seclude myself from the universe in hopes of achieving what I want alone. I am open to accepting those pathways as they come, without allowing myself to become desperate or nihilistic.
This does two things; tests patience, and increases independence. Real passion exhibits itself in the greatest patience. As dissociation between your self-definition and the events that envelop, allows one to be truly happy no matter of the circumstances. Knowing that if it doesn’t occur, its because life has better plans.
You text the guy on that Instagram network. You make your feelings known. You’ve done your part and now you await the game of life. Instead of impatiently checking your phone a billion times per minute, in hopes that your action was the right one, an action that will truly breed the response you were looking for, you decide to trust the universe and wait. If its meant to be it will be. So you move on to the next event requiring your action. You send the application letters to the agency. You wait. If it will come it will come. In the meanwhile, you busy yourself with friends and family, dinners and parties, chores and errands. If the boy messages you back, great! It was meant to be, you played your part, and the world did its. If not, then it wasn’t meant to be and you spent no time getting attached to the expected outcome. Instead you went on with your life. Now you have the opportunity to meet someone who might have been a better match.
The conclusion thus does not belong to either the rationalist nor the empiricist realm on its own; instead it’s a mix of both. Trusting in the universe is a freedom arising from the art of waiting; you play the game of waiting to see what it is the universe has in store for you. When it comes, trust yourself to have wisdom to use serenity or courage successfully.