As children we labor under the illusion that someday, when we have grown up, we will be free of the external forces—parents, school, peers, whatever—that seem to exercise such undue influence over our lives. Fully grown and of the age of majority, presumably working a job and drawing our own income, we will finally be the authors of our own destinies, the planners of our own days.
In fact, growing up is the process of coming to terms with the fact that others will always exercise a significant amount of control over us. We will never truly be either the authors of our own destinies or the planners of our own days; this lovely tableau is an illusion, and always was. Instead, we will spend our entire lives doing more or less what we did as children—trying to use what decision-making power we do have to respond in the best way that we’re able to those people and forces outside us that seem, all too often, to co-author our lives with us.
© Aron Hsiao / 2002
Contrary to popular formulation, parents are not there to “teach this to children” in order to “prepare them for the world.” Rather, parents are simply another dimension of the same principle.
Our lives are not our own, and never were. We have input into them. We do make choices. But the vast majority of a human life is a matter of the forces and externalities acting upon it, rather than a matter of its own initiative and direction.
This is a hard thing to come to terms with. When adults fail to do it, we tend to speak of them as having an unreasonable “sense of entitlement.” What we are really saying is that they believe somehow that they ought to have more influence over their own life than they do, in a way that would diminish the influence the influence of those around them over their own lives.
When we speak of someone as having a sense of entitlement, we’re really saying that they want all the chips, and that they want others to have none, and that we realize that they will never be satisfied with the level of control that they have because no matter how much of it they seize, a meteor could still strike them tomorrow. Until they confront this fact, they will forever struggle for still more power, resources, and control—unconcerned at the implications for others because, so far as they are concerned, they still do not yet have their due.
Anyone who doesn’t understand that no matter the circumstances, and no matter the justifications, they do not ultimately and single-handedly rule in their life as an emperor—is in for a rough ride.
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Most of what is shared on social media consists of people lying to themselves, and of society lying to itself, about hard truths of human existence.