The Compass Blog

The Limitations of Our Control – November 12, 2017

Matt Moore

I’m 35,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean as I write this. My travel partner hates air travel. Every bump, bounce, and creak reminds her of the fragility of voluntarily boarding a metal capsule to be hurled at several hundred miles an hour over land, water, mountains, and all manner of unseen terrain that vanishes beneath the clouds as we and our 232 fellow passengers surrender control of our lives for the next 6 hours to 2 presumably skilled but unseen individuals.

For the very same reasons, I love air travel. The inherent risk isn’t lost on me, but I find a certain solace in being able to abandon my terrestrial concerns for a few hours. Handing over possession of my trajectory reminds me of how little control I’ve had since my first breath. The process reconnects me to the randomness, the precious luck, the tragic misfortunate, that, despite our best efforts, touches us all.

When we land in a few hours, we’ll claim our bags, pick up our rental car, and drive to Pearl Harbor and the USS Missouri.

We’re attending a Veteran’s Day ceremony at a site in our nation’s history when 3,500 individuals, in service and defense of the liberties we enjoy each day, along with their family and friends, were touched by the beautiful and cruel randomness of being hurled through this universe.

The history of our existence overflows with reminders of the limitations of our control.

On a recent trip to the 49th State, I met an individual who, like many folks you may encounter in the Great North, decided to make a substantial change and, at a later stage in her life,  relocated to a remote area of Alaska. She had lived the majority of her life in urban America, educating generations as a university professor, and raising and preparing her children to embark on their own adventures. On a vacation to Alaska, she discovered a new frontier, a new home, and, rather than balk and wither at the unknown, she dove in whole heartedly, surrendering that illusion of control we all carry, and embracing the possibilities of the unknown. In relaying her story to me, she said something to me that will stick with me forever: “If not now, when?”

This isn’t a parable about seasonal jobs, and how taking the leap to spend a summer in a National Park, or on a dude ranch, or in Alaska, could change your life. It did for me, but I’m on my own path, my own journey. My intention is to remind you to embrace today. Pick up your guitar and write a song for someone you love. Pull out your old paints and easel and create something for your own enjoyment. Saddle up to the potter’s wheel and throw yourself into creating whatever brings itself to life. Hug your dog. Kiss your cat. Write your parents a letter, regardless of where your relationship with them is at. Live and create without fear of judgment.

The wings could fly off at any moment. The unexpected could reign down when you least expect it. We don’t have control over most things, but we have control over enough to make a difference in our own lives and the lives of those we love.

So, if not now, when?