By Carley Eschliman
Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV)- “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
It’s often said that people are either one of two types: A or B. Type A’s pride themselves in knowing the little details of life, carefully planning future endeavors, and being in control of their environment at all times. Type B’s see a larger picture and are more goal orientated in nature. They are more likely to relinquish control to another person as long as they believe that their end goal will stay the same. As Cornell students, I believe that we are specifically selected to be more of the A variety. Admissions officers look for high levels of intrinsic motivation; they want to see that we can form our own plans and execute them with flying colors. And, for good reason. Our ability to be detail orientated is crucial as we work tirelessly to be Champions of Understanding in our respective majors. We’re expected to break down every situation we encounter and be able to regurgitate extremely specific details of even the most complicated of processes. Often, we progress on a day to day basis and have extreme difficulty when it comes to relinquishing control of our environment. Because we just have to ace this prelim or have to memorize this formula or have to make sure that everyone in our group project does exactly what they’re supposed to.
I’ll be the first to confess that this detail orientated way of life is addicting. It’s nice to be able to limit the “ifs” in our lives and to know what’s going to happen and when. We lack authority in so many aspects of our existence, whether it be our government, familial environment, or personal social sphere; opportunities for complete control are few and far between. Our desire to take advantage of these opportunities leads to a turf war with the Powers that Be, a daily tug of war that we hardly, if ever, win. Yet this futility is irrelevant to us, because this desire for authority, for oversight, for control, outweighs all the challenges that stand in our way. After all, we want to be Champions, no matter the cost.
But, we reside in a universe that doesn’t always let us be victors, and these resulting disappointments create vicious cycles of discouragement and ill-placed trust. Type A culture makes us wonder why we don’t understand, when we will have it all under control, and how life could be so cruel. Why can’t we just win for once? But, as humans, we should not expect ourselves to have control or complete certainty in our future. In fact, there is literally no way for humans to achieve this high level of foresight. Despite this lack of practicality, our culture permeates the need for control and detail-orientation, leaving us with feelings of depression, worthlessness, and inadequacy upon our subsequent failures. I believe that the Type A culture of Cornell amplifies the already pervasive need for control, and students suffer accordingly. I believe that the main issue behind this suffering can be solved with one very important thing: proper perspective.
When I find myself in a Type A rut, I think about my favorite artist: Claude Monet. Monet and his work provide us with an interesting outlook for how we should focus on the world. Monet is most famously known for his depiction of the waterlilies surrounding his French estate, and his style of painting caused major changes in the artistic world. His works are all about perspective. Standing with your nose up against his oil paintings results only in confusion; too close of a proximity results in the transformation of beautiful water lilies into misshapen globs of cerulean and peach paint. This inability to appreciate his work through a detail-oriented lens leads me to love Monet and his art. Prior to his work, the artistic community was stuck in Romanticism, an art style which prided itself in meticulous depiction and exact representation. But, through Monet’s ability to paint with the whole subject in mind, he was able to shift art from the strict era of Romanticism to the more expressive and artistically free period of Impressionism. With the advent of Impressionism, artists were able to focus their art on the “big picture,” literally. No longer was art about displaying things with visual precision; art was transformed into an emotional and spiritual release. Monet painted what he felt, not what he saw, and he forever changed the way in which artists approached their crafts.
Monet teaches us that perspective is key. Our often analytical, narrow, and control-focused mindsets leave us with our noses up against the masterpieces of our existence, causing confusion and an inability to understand the work as a whole. A failed prelim and a difficult project appear in our vision as unrelated blotches of color on the canvas in front of us, and connections between separate events are rarely found. But, what would happen if we took a step back? These two events, while seemingly serving as an interruption to our personal plan, may be proponents of a larger scheme at play, nuances of a beautiful work of art that we are unable to see in its entirety. Perhaps failure points to a new direction: a check of confidence, a new study system, or even a change in major. Connections can be found once control is relinquished. So, why don’t we allow ourselves to take a step back? As I mentioned earlier, as humans, and especially Type A humans, the act of “letting go” is much easier said than done. Having things outside of our control is stressful, and trust is hard to come by. We tell ourselves that our control-orientated perspective is necessary, albeit difficult. But, as a Christian, I know of a way in which us Type As can finally achieve the perspective we need.
One of Christianity’s core beliefs is that God is omnipresent, all-powerful, and all knowing. Basically, He’s the oldest, wisest, and most powerful entity… ever. He created all things and has seen the beginning and ending of time. This awesome power allows God limitless foresight and hindsight, making Him the possessor of all control. But, through God’s mercy and grace, we are protected by His power, not subject to it. In fact, God intercedes on his people’s behalf and is involved in our daily lives. He loves us enough to handcraft a specific plan for each of us, our own personal masterpieces. And, honestly, God’s plan for us is so much better than any plan we could construct for ourselves. This plan means that we don’t have to fight for control anymore, or understand everything, or create a flawless road map to success; there’s already a God who has made our path.
So how do we have access to this divine plan? All we have to do is ask and keep our faith grounded in him which is arguably one of the most difficult things that we as humans could do. But I contend that the difficulties are worth it. In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about the importance of relinquishing our worries, of “letting go and letting God.” The relief found in God’s presence allows for a contentment unlike any other. The stresses caused by our narrow and detail oriented mindsets can dissipate as we are able to finally realize that we don’t have to know it all. There is a God for us who allows us to partake in His masterpiece.
So, as we all continue our journey here at Cornell, I encourage you to take a second to think about these lines from the Lord’s prayer: “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Allow the Lord to take control, to alleviate our stress, and to expand our perspective. Allow God to remind you of your worth in His eyes, and have a mindset of prayerful release. Take a step back from your canvas and appreciate the beauty before you.
Want to know more about Carley? Read her bio here