February 2021 – The Illusion of Control

I used to have a job selling reinsurance contracts for mobile home parks in the hurricane zones of Florida. What I learned from this is that nothing is under control. You think you have got everything sorted out with the premiums correctly adjusted to the risk and the contracts all ready to be signed and then you get three hurricanes in a row. Just when everything seemed to be under control it all fell apart and you had to start all over again.

It’s similar to the Covid-19 crisis that we are in. It is teaching us some very painfull lessons about the illusion of control. We think we are in control as we get certain systems in place with their appropriate procedures and measures. But sometimes, no matter how sophisticated our plans are, they just don’t ‘cut it’ and things get out of our control.

This sense of control is often just an illusion that hides the fact that we are not as ‘in control’ as we thought we were. Obviously, the control that we do have gives us a sense of security and safety, which is important, but it only goes so far. There are many things that are completely outside of our control and of course health, and life, and death, are often in those categories. So, we have to find a way through life that can deal with the facts and be able to process the reality that everything is not under our control. We have to learn to ‘let go’ of wanting to control the outcome of many things or we drive ourselves mad.

The ‘wisdom’ writers in the Bible were onto this. The writer of Ecclesiastes goes as far as to say that we can’t really control anything because life is too unpredictable. He describes life as ‘Hevel’, meaning that it is like a vapour or smoke that can look solid but is just a mist. Like smoke, life can be confusing, disorientating and uncontrollable. He says that since we can’t control our lives we need to hold on to life with open hands and learn to control the one thing we can, which is our attitude towards the present moment. This is the challenge that we have in front of us as we go through this time of uncertainty and chaos.


Rev Dr Christopher Noble – Rector

St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo