Control Is an Illusion, Nothing You Do Matters

Photo: AP

On Thursday, the New York Times confirmed what you’ve always suspected deep down, though you have never had the fortitude to admit it: nothing you do matters, causality and control are illusory, and the world is little more than a chaotic jumble of violence and despair.

“Perceived control is very important,” Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard University, told the Times. “It diminishes stress and promotes well being.” For example, here are three kinds of devices that you might think can be used to influence the world around you, that in fact do nothing at all:

  • Door-close buttons on elevators;
  • Crosswalk signals;
  • Office thermostats.

Some other things in your life that you perceive to be under your control that actually are not:

  • Other people’s feelings about you;
  • Your own feelings, ultimately;
  • Random acts of violence against you and your family;
  • The election;
  • The economy;
  • Advertisers’ faith and interest in media businesses;
  • Readers’ ability to parse irony;
  • Readers’ ability to think critically;
  • Readers’ willingness to engage with complicated ideas;
  • Readers’ willingness to read stories about depressing things;
  • Whether your feelings for another person are reciprocated;
  • Whether a person will respect your boundaries without being resentful about it;
  • When your parents die;
  • When pets die;
  • Death, in general.

RIP Maverick.

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About the author

Brendan O'Connor

Reporter, Special Projects Desk

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