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The sphere of influence

When I was first introduced to computers as an eight year old kid, I was shown a simple diagram and a table that highlighted some things as input devices, like the keyboard and the mouse, and some others as output devices, like the monitor and speakers.

The idea was really simple. You use the input devices to provide some commands that the CPU would process and then the output devices would show you a corresponding result. 

The input devices were like the knobs on a television or the buttons on a remote control that could be used to control what appears on the television, which was the output device. 

The world we live in is more or less similar to this. A lot of the circumstances we find ourselves facing are like the television programs. We can do some things with the remote control to change the channel or control the volume or the brightness of the picture, but we can't change what program is on on what channel or the plots of the programs themselves.

Our sphere of influence is merely the buttons on the remote control. 

We can get mad about the ending of a plot going in an unexpected direction, or we can be angry about the lack of depth for the characters on a program, but we can't do anything with the remote in our hands to change that.

All it will do is leave us behind sulking and in a foul mood that we will carry over to other aspects once we turn off the television.

Instead, if we turn our attention to our sphere of influence, we will realise that the best course of action is to change the channel and watch something else that entertains us, or mute the television and turn on some music instead. 

As Mike Sturm says, the only way to feel truly powerful is to fully grasp how powerless we are. When we understand how small our sphere of influence is, we are empowered to do things that will truly have an impact. And we will cease to be bothered by things that are outside of our sphere of influence.

This, in short, is the essence of zen.

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