For those of you just as awesome as me (at least in your musical taste), yes! That’s a quote from ‘The Queen and I.’
And for all lesser mortals, it’s not really important where I got that from – just know that I didn’t make it up, I was simply inspired by it.
I think that in today’s world, especially in the United States, most of us operate under the assumption that we have some sort of power over our futures. And to an extent, we’re right.
We can take what we have – intelligence, dry humor, double-jointedness, whatever – and make the best out of it if we so choose. But we’re working with the hand we’re dealt. It’s not as if we get to pick our cards. And if you’d prefer a more church-sanctioned game analogy: we can choose which pieces we remove and how we restack them, but we weren’t the architects in charge of building our Jenga tower.
But our sense of control, whether card-related or tumbling block-related, is balancing on a tenuous imaginary thread. Control of our own lives, in my opinion, is similar to the value of the dollar. So long as we believe that this rectangular piece of fabric-paper holds the value that the United States Treasury has printed on it (and if Puff Daddy is to be believed, it’s all about the Benjamins), then it holds value. If we ever stop believing it, our whole system of trade collapses.
So long as we believe what our parents and Dr. Seuss told us, we hold some control over our lives. But the minute that we realize that maybe, just maybe, we don’t control our futures, it all collapses. Just like that Jenga tower. Or the royal flush you were looking for when the dealer passed you a three of clubs.
This doubt, this panic-inducing anxiety? It serves a purpose. It’s why people have faith. Because once you realize that your sense of control is about as real as Pam Anderson’s breasts, you need to find something solid to hold onto (well THAT sounded dirtier than I intended).
So we flounder around, looking for whatever floats our boat.
Some of us find religion.
Others find science.
If you’re me, you find an assortment of random things – imagination, tattoos, a deep desire for the vindictive fates of Greek mythology to actually exist and therefore explain some of the shit in my life…
Look. I won’t judge you for whichever type of faith you have. Faith, in itself, is beautiful.
For a long time, I didn’t consider myself a person who had much faith at all. I considered myself a person who had lost – no, who had been robbed of – her faith. Then, as I was explaining this loss to a friend of mine my second year of college, he said something that completely changed my outlook on life and myself.
“Wait,” he said. “You think you don’t have faith?”
“Well…yeah…” I said, temporarily disrailed.
“You’re one of the most faithful people I’ve ever met,” he asserted, further shocking me. “You may not be religious, but you have faith in imagination, in the power of words, in the future, and in your fellow human beings. Even when we don’t deserve it. Whether you realize it or not, faith is a huge part of your life.”
There aren’t many people I’ve ever shared this conversation with, because it blew my mind. My friend totally flipped a switch in my head that day without even knowing it. He showed me a side of myself that was hidden from the whole world. The side that had faith in my ideas and my own abilities, including my ability to change the world around me for the better.
So even though I’m sitting here, talking about how our sense of control over our own lives is an illusion, don’t take it as a terrifying or depressing blog. I’m looking at this whole thing philosophically. The better we understand our purpose in the giant puzzle of mortality and meaning, the better our lives will be.
Let’s not forget that we’re all playing the same game here. We all have different kinds and levels of faith, sure. But that’s not what unites us – it doesn’t have to. Simply living in our global community can bring us together if we want it to.
We’re all little pieces in the game called life. Some of us have more power than others, this is true.
A king is the ultimate power, but he can barely move for all the rules and restrictions holding him in place. A queen can go anywhere, so long as she remembers to protect the king. A knight moves around in a crazy-restrictive pattern but always manages to sneak up and surprise the other pieces. A bishop cuts across the heart of the game board. The rook can knock pretty much anything out of the straight and narrow path. And a pawn? Well. A pawn is the all-important front line of defense.
And if all the rules for who-can-do-what aren’t enough, sometimes it’s hard to figure out who’s on our team and who isn’t, which of course only makes the whole ordeal more complicated. If we let it.
Here’s an idea...
Why don’t we all just assume that we’re on the same team? Why don’t we each use our respective movement abilities, if we’re going with the chess metaphor, to make life easier on each other?
Why don’t we finally admit that we’re not necessarily bigger or better than someone else just because we have, as Gym Class puts it, a bunch of fancy moves? If we can admit, first to ourselves and then to the world, that in the grand scheme of things, we’re no more important than the next guy, we both have our parts to play, then maybe it’ll be just a tad easier to coexist.