Saturday 01 January 2011

The Illusion Of Control

We seek, wherever possible, to be the masters of our domain. We are comforted by the knowledge that we are in control of the world around us. We feel secured with the realization that our action or inaction can exert a measurable influence on our surroundings. It matters even little how small such change may be, for we still feel satisfied simply knowing that we have some power to reshape our own reality. Yet, our emotional needs to be in control frequently blind us from the truth that we are sometimes at the beckons of others who truly have the power to control our world. Thus, any control which we perceive to have of our own lives is at best only an illusion—however comforting this illusion may be.

For example, it is known that the thermostats in many offices and hotel rooms are fakes, placed there solely for the false benefits of their occupants to manipulate so they may believe that they can adjust the heating and cooling of the building space. Likewise, the close buttons in many elevators are mere dummies, such that pressing them will not shorten the time until the doors will close. Perhaps the most pervasive implementation of these placebo switches is the pedestrian signal buttons installed in many busy city street intersections. With the emergence of centralized traffic control, most of these semi-actuated signals no longer function. Pushing the buttons (even repeatedly) will not change the speed by which the pedestrian traffic lights have been programmed to change. Even so, many unwitting pedestrians continue to push these buttons, deriving some satisfaction that somehow their small action may make a subtle difference.

Everyday, we crave for control of our small lives. When this control is not possible for real, we are quick to accept as substitute any illusion which may be proof that we are the masters of our domain.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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