Life is messy and fundamentally out of our control. Over and over, we learn the lesson - I certainly do, pretty much on a daily basis - that efforts to control situations and other people are largely efforts in futility. The mind continually generates images of how things ought to turn out, and life continually turns out differently. Other people (and nature) stubbornly do what they feel is best, rather than what we are certain that they ought to do.
How much energy do we expend each day - physical and emotional energy - on attempting to have life turn out the way we think it ought to - only to receive the humbling lesson that Life had other plans for us? The words of our prayerbook on the High Holidays, and on Shabbat as well, point to this truth - there is a bigger picture within which we live, which is beyond our control.
And the liberating message is: that's okay - it doesn't have to be a problem. We can loosen our grip a little.
Now paradoxically - and the rabbinic tradition is wonderfully paradoxical - it is also a fundamental teaching in Judaism that in every moment we have freedom of choice! So saying that life is messy and out of our control is not a license to throw up our hands and be fatalistic and passive.
Do we have control or don't we? Yes, and yes. (A classic Jewish answer!) Our ancient sages expressed the paradox this way: "Everything is foreseen, and freedom of choice is given."
There is a ripple effect out into the world of every choice we make. From the atomic level to the cosmic level, our lives are interconnected in ways that we cannot even begin to fathom.
And there is the possibility at every moment to "choose life" - to choose to do something that will have a positive impact on the world. Although of course, paradoxically, we never know what that impact will be, and it isn't really in our control. Here again, it becomes a matter of faith - stepping out into the unknown again and again.
Life is messy and fundamentally out of our control, and yet we are called upon to keep trying to act rightly. Our actions (including our misguided efforts to be controlling) have consequences beyond what we can foresee. And, in the midst of our misguided efforts to control what cannot be controlled, love and joy are possible.
May each of us be blessed in the coming year with love and joy, and a willingness to loosen our grip a little and choose life.