Destiny’s Unseen Hands

The Thinker by Rodin

Cosmic forces are pushing me. Yeah, I know it sounds nuts, but it is true. All I know is that something is out there. It is messing with me, hopefully for the good. I do not know how I know, but somehow I know that I was sent on this journey called life, and I know that I have a mission. While I do not know what my mission is, I can infer much of it. If I stray too far from my apparently programmed path, unseen forces will quickly align me back toward the same path.

And it is not just me. I think that it is all of us. I am starting to question just how much free will I really have. I believe that I was meant to come into this life and tackle certain issues. I do not know if I was meant to actually solve them in this life, but I think I am expected to keep earnestly plugging away at them. The means by which to solve them seem largely elusive, which makes the whole process feel very frustrating. Nor can I fully articulate what the issues are. What I perceive my “issues” to be are I think symptoms of some higher issues whose names I cannot identify. The meaning of my life is like a partially constructed jigsaw puzzle. If I can snap a piece or two into the puzzle then I have a better understanding of what the puzzle in time may reveal.

Here is what I have learned in my own situation. You can run, but you cannot hide from your mission. Whatever “it” is, you must work on it. For example, let us suppose that you are unhappy in your marriage. You subsequently divorce, thinking that your spouse’s behavior was the problem. As a divorcee, you are likely to find that there is some underlying issue related to the marriage that still gnaws at you, and it was not your ex-wife. Rather your ex-wife merely brought to the surface some issues inside yourself so you could grapple with them. Perhaps you will ache in loneliness in a degree commensurate with the misery you experienced in the marriage. Perhaps you will seek out someone who you think has different characteristics, only to find that when you remarry that you are facing the same issues all over again. You may even find yourself ping ponging from one relationship to the next looking for the perfect relationship minus the detritus of the last one. Ultimately, you are likely to find that you have issues, your partner has issues, and sanctuary simply does not exist.

Taking overt actions to address specific symptoms do not necessarily solve these hidden issues and agendas that lie within ourselves. At best, actions that address symptoms act like an aspirin and dull the pain. Sometimes they make things much worse. However, the underlying issue remains. The wound remains open.

The baffling parts are figuring out what the real issues are. If you can articulate the underlying issues then you have the challenge of creating a way to address them. Perhaps with a very good therapist you can in time figure out what your problems truly are. However, that does not necessarily mean that you can solve them. No therapist can inhabit your body. At best, they can view your internal life through a translucent pane of glass. They depend on you to faithfully articulate your feelings. If you are equally baffled then it is unlikely that they will be of much lasting help.

So you may feel like I do: that I am grasping at straws. While the status quo may at times feel very painful, it seems like outside forces want you to inhabit this zone. For it seems that we can only learn our most valuable lessons through pain. Progress, when it is made at all, seems to come from embracing the pain rather than avoiding it. This is difficult for most of us to do because it feels so counterintuitive.

One of my issues is control. I like things ordered and predictable. I do not like surprises. I do not like ambiguity. I like to think my life is in reasonable control. I take satisfaction at the end of the month paying all my bills and seeing my net worth slowly creeping up. I want to extend this control into all aspects of my life. Yet it is ultimately futile. For control is really an illusion. Moreover, I cannot really control anything other than myself. I cannot control my wife, daughter or cat. While I like the illusion of having control over myself, in reality even control over myself is an illusion. For I am not just me. I am many beings and aspects at once. Most of the time the logical side is dominant, but sometimes the emotional side takes control. My brain, like yours, is like a massive parallel processor where multiple threads compete for control over my mind and body. Therefore, I think one of my meta-issue is not control, but learning how to give up control. For me death is so disturbing not necessarily because it means the loss of my self. It is disturbing because it exists in a domain beyond my control yet through which I must pass. Perhaps it is this knowledge that is at the root of religion’s popularity.

On rare occasion a puzzle piece does fall into place. For much of my life I felt intellectually intimidated. While I was above average intellectually, I was no mental giant. I perceived myself as less smart than those around me, particularly many of my siblings. I wanted to have a job that was more intellectually challenging and where I got to work on larger issues that had a broader impact. I had a few brushes with failure that suggested this was my natural state. For example, I lost my job in 1988. A few years earlier, I had tried to take a computer course in college and failed. Working in the information systems field without a related degree made me feel vulnerable. Eventually I determined that I had to work up my courage and succeed by earning a graduate degree. I knew it would have to be done while keeping a full time job, caring for my elementary school daughter and keeping my marriage together. Yet I had to do it to achieve balance within myself.

I eventually achieved my goal, much to my relief. The degree did help me achieve a more rewarding career. However, what it really did was give me some confidence in my own abilities to solve a very difficult personal issue. This particular feeling of angst that had permeated about twenty years of my life wholly disappeared. Nevertheless, clearly many other underlying issues remain to be tackled.

I need to figure out what these remaining issues really are. One thing I do know from much experience: I cannot walk away from them for they will continue to shadow me throughout life unless I somehow resolve them. So although I usually don’t know how to tackle them, I must keep making rather fumbling attempts to do so. If I choose to do nothing, I know that destiny will intervene.