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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dodging Another One

How many bullets will I dodge in my life before gratitude for good fortune becomes my default mode?

Several weeks ago I was about three cars back at a traffic light on a busy highway when the light turned green. As a car whipped through the opposing red light and narrowly avoided ramming into the first car in my line, my thoughts turned to how many times I've dodged that bullet. How many times have you?

Not long after, I listened as a friend described attending the funeral of a young adult who died of a drug overdose. My friend was unable to find words to console the parents and I thought - there's another bullet I've dodged. Yes, my wife and I raised a solid daughter who has made good choices but so much was never in our control; like a car speeding through a light.

I am grateful for every car accident I've averted. I'm more grateful for the good choices my daughter has made. Tonight I'm grateful for the latest bullet I've dodged - a storm that just destroyed the lives of many people who live less than a mile from me. And I long for the day when no bullets are necessary to remind me to be grateful.  

1 comment:

  1. There are three broad view of probability. One is a subjective view. We sense it is likely to rain tomorrow, perhaps based on experience. A second is theoretical. Given a fair coin or die (i.e., unbiased) we can predict the frequency of outcomes without tossing or rolling. The third is empirical. We can toss or roll and examine the distribution of outcomes.

    The subjective view you write about is called many things. It may be called intuition. It may be called luck. It may be called divine intervention. Whatever it is called, it is outside the domain of what can be proven and draws us toward mystical explanations.

    There is another way of looking at it. The world cum universe does what it does without regard to our wishes, though we superimpose meaning and interpretation based on those wishes.

    The child rearing you allude to does not comport with the notion of having dodged a bullet. A progression of events led, not surprisingly, to a likely outcome, albeit one that was not guaranteed.

    When we examine our world without calling upon the mystical and non-provable, we might come to believe that there is some kind of causal chain underlying every event. When the causal chain is not easily observed we call upon probabilistic explanations. Good child rearing correlates with good outcomes, although it does not guarantee them. The absence of good outcomes is painful, so we often leave the world of probability and call upon the mystical. How could the universe do that to me? Or conversely, I am so grateful that the universe did not do that to me.

    It is just the stochastic world doing it's thing without regard to our wishes.

    A woman was killed by an elevator in New York when it moved before the doors closed. Was she unlucky? Were we lucky that it wasn't us?

    Living is dangerous. There is risk in many things.

    If one likes a mystical explanation one might consider the Yiddish proverb, "man plans and God laughs".

    Some people believe that everything happens for a reason; a form of circular reasoning. If something happens then it was meant to happen. We're always right but we can never predict anything with certainty. Everything is 20/20 in hindsight. Everything according to this belief is retrospective.

    It seems that it is hard for humans to accept that things may happen for no reason, and this is just the way it might be. How might we seek the truth regarding this? The question likely goes beyond what science can answer.

    Interestingly, some people seem to focus their energies on questions for which there are no answers. Others accept that there are many wonderful mysteries, and embrace the fact that they are not completely sure of anything, and get on with the business of trying to find out what they can.

    Richard Feynman put it well http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zi699WzAL0