“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.” Harold S. Kushner in his foreword, Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Beacon Press: 2006), x. cac.org
The ancient wisdom of Hindu teachings tells us that we, those of us in this human experience called life, will traverse through 4 stages. First is the student. We learn lessons from parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, peers, and life itself. Whom we become as adults is instilled during this period.
Second is the householder. We hone our skills as businessmen and women, professionals and tradespeople and assume roles as parents and providers. We become engaged in the community, take leadership roles in civic organizations, churches and politics. Asset building is paramount to many of us, while establishing ourselves within our vocations is important to many others. We build credibility as successful members of society.
Third is the retiree. This is when our productive years in jobs and community leadership begin to decline. If wisdom prevails, we cede control to our children and the younger generation who will inherit the goodness we have generated or the chaos and disorder we have created. Many in Western culture refuse to move beyond the life stage of productivity and societal influence. We are dragged kicking and screaming toward stage 3 of our lives, the retirement years. It is not merely a refusal to relinquish economical or political control. It is a refusal to bow out and pass the baton to the next generation. It is their world that we now occupy as transients. They have the innovative concepts and fresh ideas that will resolve the world’s problems.
Lastly is the beggar or wanderer. We detach from the things of this world and prepare for our pending physical deaths. It is not a surrender to the uncertainties and frailties of old age, but rather, a search for comfort and security in that which is not earth-bound. We look at the pending transition focused on the spiritual aspects of our being. It is here that we can face a great sense of vulnerability and insecurity if spirit is not in balance within this human life experience. Accepting that we have no control over what happens to us, realizing that there is no financial or physical security in life can mean the difference between a terrifying home stretch as beggar and wanderer or an indwelling peace beyond human understanding.
As with all situations in life, my response is my choice just as your response is yours. Especially in the role of beggar and wanderer, we can be driven to emotional turmoil and madness when control is given to forces which are essentially beyond our control. Why give brain space to a person, a political power, a religious tradition which does not pay rent for that space? Why allow rhetoric and behavior which is not sanctifying and gracious into that inner sanctum of peace?
I can control my universe, so can you. The decision is ours.