I think it was John Lennon who famously said that life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. Maybe he too was feeling the frustration that can arise when our world is turned upside down by the unexpected.
So many of life’s frustrations and disappointments come from our vision of how things should be, don’t they? And when they should be.
Planning is an essential tool. It helps us to create a picture of the future we would like, and to create that future by putting in place the steps that we will take to achieve it. It helps to transform a dream into a reality, breaking the vision into the practical tasks that move us forward. Without a plan, or a direction, we could move along aimlessly from day to day without purpose or priority.
And then life intervenes. Over the past few years, the voice of that intervention has been loud and harsh, reminding us that not only can we not foresee the future, but that the extent of our control over the world we live in is both frighteningly large and terrifyingly small. The illusion of the extent of our power has been well and truly shattered, while our ability to destroy the world we live in has been demonstrated beyond doubt.
We were so proud of our Celtic Tiger, that we had the secret to avoiding economic fluctuations, that our strategies and policies would keep us in an un-ending cycle of growth and prosperity. Until the butterfly (in the shape of an obscure bank in the US no one had ever heard of) flaps its wings and the world’s financial systems start to shake in the face of the storm.
When we think it can’t get any worse for our beleaguered little nation, the weather steps in, bringing the country to a standstill, reinforcing how vulnerable we are in physical terms. Further afield, the shocking events in Libya and Japan remind us that lives can be irrevocably shattered in an instant, and the picture we have in our minds of how we thought our futures would look can change very quickly.
We can make our plans, if we want, but life can disrupt them in the blink of an eye. Our world is showing us how little we know. As a race, humans have achieved extraordinary things. We can put men into space, we can perform miracles of medicine, we can communicate around the world in seconds, but we do not and cannot foresee all the consequences of our actions. And we do not control the actions and reactions of others. In Ireland, we believed that we had succeeded in economic terms where other countries had failed, and we were shown the folly of our assumptions.
We can plan, we can visualise, we can create. But until we learn that we are not in control life will continue to challenge our hubris. And perhaps the lesson for us in this, is not how to prevent it happening again, not perhaps to refine again our vision of how things should be, to put in place more controls, more rules for ourselves to control our environment, but is perhaps to look at our assumptions about ourselves and our lives, to look at our beliefs about ourselves and the limits of our abilities. And to ask ourselves what are we being shown in this?