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The Randomness of it all

12 October 2012, 12:56

“Oh, many a shaft at random sent

Finds mark the archer little meant!

And many a word at random spoken

May soothe, or wound, a heart that's broken!”

– Sir Walter Scott.

In every persons life, there comes a time where luck or its opposite strikes. It is normally a feeling of the moment, or coincidences thereof that make us smile in wonder or frown in dismay. It becomes an outlier to our normal day-to-day lives and as such, becomes celebrated and significant. So it is with most of our experiences of self-imposed importance: they emerge rare and notable. We remember and cherish them for their infrequency and supposed randomness. The idea I recently had was one of joy and tremendous capability to my daily life: What if everything is random? In effect, the outliers – what we attribute to luck – are instead the normality and everyday life – seemingly structured and ordered – is but completely arbitrary and filled with unknowns.

“We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.” – Annie Dillard

Obvious you might say but let me expand. I used to think that the universe is this absolutely unfathomably large expanse, with us being insignificant and futile – some kind of joke on a grand scale. Later, I came to realise that it was merely my ego that was too big. Now, I understand that we are not small, but rather infinitely interlinked and massive. You see, we all expanded from this wonderful big bang, spreading all its guts in a rich eruption. From there, gases coalesced, fusing to form stars and after billions of years once again exploding, creating most of the elements we have come to know on the periodic table of elements. Our ancestors aren’t amongst the stars in heaven – they are the stars themselves. We are involved in a constant and evidently never ending series of bangs that has ultimately led to planets, suns and eventually the greatest bang of them all: life. To me this means that we hold within us the same origins as the stars that allowed our birth. We shine because they shine. We live because they live. What does it all have to do with randomness? Everything. Just take the chances of planetary habitability as an example, or the fact that you are one in a billion sperm that made it to the egg. If that’s not enough just think of all the horrible atrocities happening across the world: wars, famine, disease or the weather and acts of nature. Our chance of survival is so small, it seems the cosmos is against us everywhere we look – yet here we are, reading.

“The human species has inhabited this planet for only 250,000 years or so-roughly 0.0015% of the history of life, the last inch of the cosmic mile. The world fared perfectly well without us for all but the last moment of earthly time–and this fact makes our appearance look more like an accidental afterthought than the culmination of a prefigured plan.” – Stephen Jay Gould

The randomness of it all is only fathomable when you ignore your own ego, that piece of you that is self-induced importance. Once you have done that, it allows for you to see that you are not special in the sense of the word, but rather in light of it. You were born where you were; you live where you do and you bear the situation you’re in because it is completely random. Religion or lack-there-of, the piece or amalgamation of information that caused you to believe or to throw it aside, the person you spoke to or listened to, is all as random as your likes and dislikes, your race, abilities, gender, talents or geography. We spawned from true randomness, to live out a completely random life in a completely random world with a completely random setting. Whether you are the news clipping in tomorrow’s paper that reads of your death in a freak elevator accident, are cheated on, fired, hired, in a car crash or falling in love – there were no events leading up to it, they merely just happen. We stay healthy and die young. We don’t smoke and get lung cancer. We drive cautiously and a drunk driver kills a family. We are polite and get treated badly. We strive to win and end up losing. We try to help and get lambasted. It all is this chaotic stream of utter nonsense and sense. Not why, just here or there. Your reality is constantly being created by your brain, being fed its information through the five senses you have at your disposal. Sometimes the information gathered is skewed; causing you to react at the sight of something running across the road, only to find it was nothing but a leaf. Random input creates a random output. The flow of information is from senses to subconscious to conscious, what you are fed determines the reaction given: randomness at its greatest. Same situation, yet sometimes we smile and other times we scowl.

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God.” – Charles Bukowski

Life, the planets and their moons, the stars, the galaxies and the ever-expanding multiverses are all in constant chaos. Yet here we are, trying to order it. Trying to assign names to it by calling it fate or purpose. Trying to enact on what we are told and following what is put before us. Life itself is not to be ordered, it is random – not for a reason but for no reason at all. Meaning is self assigned and only possible with hindsight – someone told you a little white lie that you were unique and special when in fact they missed the picture completely. For we aren’t unique and special amongst us humans, we are all in the same hilarity and madness of the cosmos – together. Where we are unique is in the bigger picture of things: we have evolved to be able to look at the foundations of life and find it mind-blowingly beautiful. We are special in the smaller picture of things: where we have the ability to save each other from harms way, each of us loving and full of potential fun. That’s the key to it all: understanding that randomness prevails. It gives both the feeling of vulnerability and invulnerability. We are weak in our inability to always control the events that present themselves. Yet we are all powerful in being able to stifle the second law of thermodynamics – together in unity, creating and building where things naturally fall apart and disintegrate.

“A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a ‘meaning’ as well, that will be a bonus? If we waste time looking for life’s meaning, we may have no time to live – or to play.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Where we search for answers, the only ones of true value are those that expand our understanding of being and to further it in every possible way. What we experience and live through is to be shared and enjoyed. Life is so precious, so unknown and completely random – what we do with it is what is of significance in the end. It isn’t the end result that matters, but the journey we undertake up to the point of no return. Death is but only the next voyage into the unknown. All we can be sure of is it will follow much the same ride as that of our current actuality – a continuation into the cosmos, returning the energy we fed on during our time, to nourish the future, so they too can be. Life is about moving forward and as Rocky Balboa eloquently puts it, it’s about “how much you can take, and keep moving forward.”

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa

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