Control February 16, 2011

The most viewed post in the life of this blog – by an almost 2 to 1 ratio over the second most viewed – is So Mote It Be, a short entry from November 2009. Why, out of all the things I’ve written, is this so popular?

The answer, of course, is Google. If you google “so mote it be meaning” this entry comes up on the front page (or at least it does for me). As I recall, when I wrote it there weren’t a lot of good definitions on the internet – apparently enough people like my explanation to drive it up in Google’s search algorithm.

It’s not my favorite post, but I’m happy with it. I ended with a call to put the phrase into action by saying “If we are going to live our lives our way and not as popular culture says we must, at some point we have to stand up and say ‘this is what I want. This is how I will live. This I value and that I do not.’ So mote it be!”

Now, contrast that with this Huffington Post essay by Rabbi Will Berkovitz on “The Spiritual Practice of Surrendering ‘Complete Control’.” In it, Rabbi Berkovitz argues that considering “how little control we actually have in our lives … we would do well to practice letting go.” He goes on to describe how love requires letting go and how even God isn’t a perfectionist – as proof, he says “consider the platypus.”

At first glance it would seem that these two concepts are 180 degrees apart – either you declare “so mote it be!” or you “let go and let God.” But really, they aren’t.

“So mote it be” deals with choices and decisions. We make hundreds of decisions each day, from the decision to get out of bed in the morning to what to eat for breakfast to what to do with a free hour at home in the evening. Occasionally, we make big decisions: to change jobs, to move to a new place, to start or end a relationship. Hopefully our decisions are informed, ethical, and in our best interests, but regardless, we have to make them.

But there are decisions we don’t get to make: the weather, illnesses, job losses and job offers, whether or not someone returns our love. We can’t control these outcomes so we are better off not obsessing about them and accepting them as they come.

Those of us who practice magic know that our workings and our prayers can influence things beyond our control, but they can’t guarantee the outcome will be what we want. We can improve our odds but we can’t rig the game.

There are times in Life when we need to stand tall and proclaim “so mote it be!” There are other times when we need to humbly accept that what will be will be.

The real trick is knowing the difference.

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