Bungy-jumping, blizzards, and control

Andria and I haven’t quite made it back from New Zealand.  We’ve been stranded in southern California due to a massive, midwestern blizzard.  We’re staying with some very lovely people, friends of friends in the area.  I’ve gotta say, if you’re going to get stuck somewhere due to bad weather, getting stuck in southern California is probably the best option.  We just read a report of Chicagoans who were actually stuck last night in their cars, on Lake Shore Drive.  The wind must have been horrific.  For the upteenth time I am again humbled by the raw and awesome and unrestrained power of this world.  It is only matched by the raw and awesome and unrestrained power of God.

Nearly two weeks ago, I went bungy jumping in Queenstown. The physical shock to my body of being suddenly very unable to control my circumstances was very transformative and empowering. I had thought it would be a way to practice facing my fear and pushing through it, then surviving, but it turned out to be more about recognizing that I ultimately have no real way to prevent that which is inevitable, be that death, be that the coming reign of God. And for people of privilege, and I have much, there is scarcely anything more undoing than being confronted with the reality that our illusions about “power,” “control,” and “safety” is but shifting sand as time marches on.

Bungy jumping is just one way – albeit bourgeois, completely safe, and manufactured – to experience total powerlessness. This storm in Chicago and elsewhere, causing people to experience helplessness in their cars for twelve hours at a time, is obviously much more dire. But the central confrontation with helplessness is the same. The recognition of not being able to control our circumstances may come a lot more suddenly and easily when you’re plummeting off a bridge or freezing in your car, but it is true even at times of much more calm. One way or another, we are inching ever-forward in our lives, aging one day at time, as if on a very slow moving conveyor belt. We have exactly zero capacity to control this process. Yet, how much of the crap in our lives is devoted to the illusion that this steady march is in fact under our control, even reversible?

Whether we must march on, day by day, is not under our control. But how we do so, is. We will do well to surrender to the inevitable and embrace that which is indeed within our locus of control within every moment of every day: our choices.