The Art of Winning Blog

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gaining Control

With a fire raging in our backyard, I've been contemplating the nature of a fire and it led me to some thoughts about control. I hear a lot of people talk about control as either a guilty pleasure or a grasped desire. But when we are faced with a loss of control as great as the devastation of a wildfire, we are afforded the rare opportunity to examine what we can and cannot control. Firefighters are not currently working to put out the fire; they are focusing their efforts on preventing the fire from spreading. They are also working on protecting homes and letting things burn where the loss is less devastating. A fire truck was lost to the blaze but all the firefighters were safe. The fight is not at the fire, but at the things we can influence such as where the fire goes.

In a recent attack near CU, a woman was attacked while walking home. She could not control this man's desire to attack her. She could not control how big he is or what he smells like. What she could do (and did do) is control her reactions. She fought back and he ran away. She applied her influence to realize her escape.

In another attack, a lion attacked a trainer. The trainer couldn't control the lion, but he could influence (much like laying down a fire break).  The man continued to fight and position, putting weight on the lion's head and removing his leg from it's mouth. The other trainer backed him up and provided distraction. The other lion even influenced the fight by pinning the male lion's hindquarters. No one (or animal) was truly in control in that situation. It had to rage and burn out, but how and where it burned was influenced by everyone's actions.

There is much we can do to influence our experience of suffering. Old age, sickness, and death are inevitable, but, with the torments of negative thoughts and emotions, we certainly have a choice in how we respond to the occurrence of suffering. If we wish, we can adopt a more dispassionate and rational approach, and on that basis we can temper our response to it. --His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In the Boulder Four Mile Canyon Fire, the firefighters know that the fight isn't at the fire. The fight is to influence the fire to minimize damage and danger.

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