Cause and Effect


Several things have triggered this entry, some internal, some external.  A lot of people I know are worried about money right now.  A lot of people who have jobs and homes and money in the bank are worried about money anyway.  People are worried about terrorist attacks, are suffering various kinds of angst about the war ("Bomb the Bastards" read the sign painted on the back of a minivan filled with several kids I saw the other day).

But my optimism keeps creeping upward.  And breaking through.  Why is it that I, who have earned no significant money in six months and have literally lost 80% of my wealth in the stock market, seem less worried about money than most of my friends?  Am I in denial?  I think it has something to do with having had my company go into Chapter 11 when I had 4 kids in college.  I survived, scrapping, contracting, and soon was making more as a contractor than I had as an employee.  On the money side, there is hope.  And while it doesn't buy bread, hope is very nourishing.

I think the biggest reason why I'm doing OK has to do with cause and effect.  Things happen.  Some of the things you cause.  And some of the things affect you.  Being at the effect of some external cause is a synonym for being powerless.  And being at cause means you are powerful, or, perhaps better, empowered.

I have read that people's willingness to do something dangerous is very related to the degree of control (cause) they have over it.  Many people are afraid to fly or fly with reluctance, even though the number of people killed flying each year is about a hundred or so over time.  People are much more willing to drive in a cars, which kill tens of thousands of people, because they have their hands on the wheel.  And half a million people die due to smoking, which appears, at least on the outside, to be completely under our control (I could stop if I wanted to!).  It's interesting in this regard that serious laws against smoking didn't really gain momentum until the effects of second hand smoke became more widely known.  We feel the injustice of killing someone else (at effect) much more keenly than killing the smoker (at cause).

The terrifying thing about the terrorist attacks is that the people killed were innocent (that is, at effect).  They were not at an anti-Arab rally, they were not even Jews at prayer, and in fact some of them were Moslems.  They were "just doin' their jobs."  And died.  It is difficult to take, because they so easily could have been us.

And the effect on the economy has intensified the feeling of being at effect.  Can I take a vacation, buy a house, buy a car, have a nice Christmas?  Suddenly, the answer doesn't seem to be in our hands any more.  We have to "wait and see."

Sorry, I don't buy it.  Because I think we are always far more at cause than we realize.  Our fears keep us from grabbing the steering wheel and steering.  When we decide what we want and go for it, the odds that we will get it go way up.  When we "wait and see", the odds go way down.  It's old fashioned, magical thinking: someday my prince will come, and if I keep cleaning out the hearth long enough I will be transformed into a princess.  That's not the way it works for most of us.  You can buy lottery tickets if you want to, but I'm putting my faith in my two hands and what's between my ears.  I can make my world be what I want it to be, and I can do this by choosing to fill my world with people and things I love, and always remember what matters--it isn't houses, or cars, or bank accounts, or even jobs.  It's the people we love, who love us, and the many things in the world that give us joy.  Stephen Scalese put it well: "Searching for love is like a fish in the ocean searching for water."  And what's true of love is also true of happiness, joy, and contentment.  It's there, all around us.  Go get it!

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.