Control Is Impossible In A World of Chaos

It was the other day while my Dad was cutting the grass that I noticed something.

It may seem trivial and obvious, but I’m sure it’s something many of us have not thought about on a deep level. No matter how many times the grass is cut, it will always grow back.

It may grow back slower than last time, it may grow back faster than before, but no matter what, it will grow back.

As humans, we have an innate desire to control things. My back garden is a crude example, but it is a poignant one nonetheless.

Were my Dad to let the grass grow, he would be considered filthy and untidy by neighbours, yet this is what grass does. Regardless of human intervention, it grows.

It is only because humans desire control over the grass, to mould it to our own desires, that we cut it. If it was an untended plot of land, the grass would be left to its own devices.

What I realised by watching my Dad cut the grass was that we desire control in a world of chaos. This is an impossibility, yet every day, we strive for it.

Chaos is the natural order of things, so why do we rebel against it?

Chaos Theory

It’s human nature to want to control things.

Whether it’s our small patch of land on this green earth, the people around us, or the environment itself, we are constantly seeking control as a species.

It’s hardly surprising if you look at our past history. The agricultural revolution allowed us to move from chaotic hunter-gathering to a more controlled way of living via farming.

The industrial revolution that followed further cemented this, and demonstrated our ability to utilise natural resources to power machines that have led us to where we are today.

We like to think we are in control but are we? Can we ever be in control of an inherently chaotic world?

On a species level, the answer is no. Unless we devise a way to control the environment and the weather, we will always be beholden to it. Even if we were able to control it, there is no guarantee we would retain this control.

On an individual level, we are able to control more, but even then we try to do this too much. Control over yourself is one thing, but control over others and the space you live in is a dangerous route to go down.

Any semblance of control we have is an illusion. There is no saying what small changes in initial conditions can lead to down the road.

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Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash

The Butterfly Effect is the most commonly known principle of chaos. It purports that a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico will lead to a hurricane in China.

The process may take a while, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at the right point in spacetime, the hurricane would not have happened.

As there are numerous butterflies around the world, it’s impossible to keep track of all them, all of the time. Thus, it will always be impossible to predict the weather over a long period of time.

This principle applies to our lives too. Small decisions which may seem insignificant could have big repercussions down the line.

Booking a holiday in China, when a hurricane hits would be one example. It’s impossible to know this will happen beforehand, all because of one butterfly, but it’s the chance you take.

Life is inherently chaotic, we can try to control as much of it as we can, but we will always be at the mercy of external factors.

If this is the case, then what does that mean for our lives and our compulsion to control?

No Control

While we live in a chaotic world, there are elements over which we have some control.

We can control how we live our lives. Our daily actions are directly under our control, where we go, who we speak to and what we do. These are all factors we have control over.

With everything else, we have lose control. We cannot control the actions of others, as much as some of us would like to. We cannot control what our leaders decide to, and as we have established, we cannot control the weather.

When this picture is painted it appears depressing. The control we thought had is an illusion, one that has slipped from view. The mask has dropped.

However, it doesn’t have to be depressing. In fact, it should be liberating.

Trying to control everything is tiring. It takes more effort to control forces than it does to accept them.

By no means should we relinquish control of everything, rather, we should realise that we can only control so much.

It would be better for us if we accept this situation and realise we are powerless to control most of what happens around us.

No matter how much we attempt to exert control, the grass will keep on growing back.

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