The Simplicity of Poverty and Sickness – The Illusion of Self Control

Just as there is a sublime simplicity in poverty, there is a meditative minimalism in sickness.

When one is poor, decisions are simple; one has few choices as to what to do every day, what to spend money on.

The answers are: nothing and the basics.

When in poverty, many times one doesn’t know that there is a better life, or if one does know it, often there is no way to attain it at the present time in the present circumstances.

Problems solved. Only one thing to worry about: survival. Less stress (maybe).

I would agree with the many people who have said they were never happier than when they had no money. I felt that way once myself. Easy to say speaking from the other side of the coin. I think it is more that they just didn’t have the stress of constant decision-making at the time and now they do. I don’t think they would choose to stay in poverty if given a choice. Obviously those who say that were given a choice, a way out.

But one can still be happy to be alive. I hear from anyone who has been to the poorest areas in Africa that they are struck by the fact that almost everyone expresses great joy and peace in the midst of horrific conditions.

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Being ill also has an ease about it, apart from the physical pain and anguish. Usually it is out of your control. You have no choice but to go through it.

Lots of time to think. Hopefully to think about what is important in your life.

No decisions to be made really, except for how you will traverse your illness – what your attitude will be during your worst days – or whether to take the grimmest alternative, which usually isn’t acceptable.

But even Oblivion has a peaceful connotation to it.

The common thread to both poverty and illness is that there is something to be said for experiencing the realization that you are not in control.

Not really. You’re not.

Once you let go of the illusion of control, peace and contentment have a chance to creep in.

Perhaps one should try to realize that without having to go through poverty and sickness.

I know some who have.

I hear them called ‘enlightened’.

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4 thoughts on “The Simplicity of Poverty and Sickness – The Illusion of Self Control

    1. colinjkeats Post author

      Thanks for your critique, Benoit; something I should have said first.

      In order for such a well thought out and obviously researched critique to be appended to a poorly worded piece such as mine implies to me that something I said within it struck a nerve (meaning piqued the critiquer’s interest or indignation), which is a good thing and should not be disconcerting.

      I am not a philosopher, religious apologist or a debater, nor do I pretend to be any of those. Whenever I have attempted to argue with someone who is an experienced ‘arguer’ or debater or who has a varied background in philosophy or religious studies or thinking, everything seems to come down to a definition in terms and meanings of all manner of words before one can even discuss a matter on the same level. Since words are the medium, it must be so.

      Regardless, the blog posts here are just thoughts and occasional rants I have that I bring to bear from my experience, or perhaps from my lack of experience and the views are informed by my upbringing, my nature, nurture and observations. They contain all the prejudices and biases that come with a non-philosopher who is putting discourse ‘out there’. They also probably will not utilize the exact wording that they should, perhaps, a poor state of affairs for a writer so I shall attempt to self-edit more carefully in the future.

      It is 99.99 % personal opinion, which I have said elsewhere may nowadays be considered a right, but may not necessarily mean the opinion is right.

      I do take exception to one thing: The critiquer mentions “As long as one has freedom a choice (I assume this is a typo and should read ‘of choice’), one is in control. Let’s not equate limited freedom of choice with no control.”

      Also one must define control of what, exactly? If I am terminally ill, is my choice limited or non-existent? Some with differing world views would say there is no choice, others say you have one choice. But do I have control? Some would say my control is the having of that one choice, but only if I have the strength or power to enact that choice. Letting go of that control may bring peace in the sense of alleviating the need for choice.

      If I doubt that there are things in the world I can’t control that have nothing to do with the choices I myself make or have made, then I may well be delusional. If I have control over something, I can certainly choose to let that control go, also.

      But, sadly I am not equipped to rebut in true philosophical style. If others who may read this are then please have at it here.

      Reply
  1. Benoit

    Critique
    “The answers are: nothing and the basics.”
    [This statement is a hyperbole or simply, the fact that the writer has money distorts his judgment of reality. That the poor does ‘nothing’ is a value judgment. No…the poor’s decisions are different, but not simple (or simpler).
    Having less money would definitely affect the kind of choices one makes, as would being millionaire or being sick also would. To say that it would affect the quantity of my choices, one would have to know a quantity standard in an ideal situation. An ideal situation would vary for every subject; so here again it is a value judgment.
    Perhaps the writer assumed that the quality of the choices is lower for the poor; again, an erroneous value judgment assumption. ]
    “When in poverty, many times one doesn’t know that there is a better life, “or if one does know it, often there is no way to attain it at the present time in the present circumstances.
    [If a better life equates more riches, the poor would know it very well indeed.]
    “Problems solved. Only one thing to worry about: survival. Less stress (maybe).”
    [Full time on survival mode would not in any way keep my stress level low.]
    “I would agree with the many people who have said they were never happier than when they had no money.”
    The well-to-do thinking back of happier days when they were poor are not really wishing to be back there. If they sincerely would, they surely could. They are only showing their unhappiness with their present situation. Unhappiness which has nothing to do with the number or quality of choices, but has everything to do with their right or wrong choices.
    “…midst of “horrific conditions”
    [According to whose standards might be relevant here?]

    “The common thread to both poverty and illness is that there is something to be said for experiencing the realization that you are not in control.”
    [As long as one has freedom a choice, one is in control. Let’s not equate limited freedom of choice with no control.]
    “Once you let go of the illusion of control, peace and contentment have a chance to creep in.”
    Taylor and Brown have argued that positive illusion, including the illusion of control, are adaptive as they motivate people to persist at tasks when they might otherwise give up. (1988 Illusion and Well-Being. Psychological Bulletin 103(2) 193-210)
    “I hear them called ‘enlightened’.”

    [Peace and contentment go to the ‘enlightened’. Here is a pregnant word which would deserve all the attention one could give.
    How does one achieve enlightenment is already an interesting conundrum.
    To find out who I am, what is the meaning of my life, what should I do to fulfill that meaning etc., it should certainly be the main ingredients of anybody’s world view. We could then face the many decisions we will always have to confront, with a more peaceful attitude.
    The main problem is that most of us think that it is the other guy who needs enlightenment; we already know what we need to know.
    If we are intellectually reluctant to figure out our own world view, (the excuses are too many to count) we are then following somebody else’s world view.]

    Reply

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