One man dragged his dog on an energy-expending run around the perimeter of Tompkins Square Park. Another man walked his dog from a wheelchair. I could quickly catch the difference in temperament between the two dogs, based on their respective situations. The runner-dog was feisty. The wheelchair-dog was subdued. But the dogs didn’t have much say in the matter of mood. They were at the behest of their walker, or runner and wheeler, respectively.
In many ways, we live with the same feelings of being dragged by our parents, our bosses, our financial considerations, climatic conditions, and countless other factors. We rarely get a say in the way the world turns. And, in turn, we feel small.
We may aspire to be great and we may achieve what we set out to at various junctures. But we’re left with the uncanny feeling that there are still too many factors beyond our control. And that is a very healthy observation of reality, should we choose to acknowledge it.
How many ways do we try to control the world?
How many times does it result in needless anxiety?
What does this ongoing effort afford us at the end of the day?
The illusion that we’re in control? That’s inevitably taken away in a flash at the end of this life, if not the end of the day.
It may not be the most flattering metaphor for us to take on, but the dogs of Tompkins Square were happy at heart, for they learned to flow with their masters. Their tails wagging, one could perceive their joy to be loved and taken care of uniquely. We are not masters of the world. I’ve hardly met any masters of their own lives. I’m certainly not one myself. But I know that flowing with what’s beyond our control is a vital way to utilize the current, instead of getting stubbornly carried away by it.
The key: We must somehow find it in our hearts to humble ourselves before reality. If we do, carrying the weights of reality will become our labor of love. That’s not to say that we succumb to preventable pains or let our bosses walk all over us.
Part of flowing with the current is knowing when to change course. But we always have to recognize that while we may have control over certain things, there are many more things over which we don't have control. And unless we reconcile these differences, we risk unconsciously being frustrated ad infinitum or buying into a false sense of security (sure to burst in time!).
So once more, let us ask: