Thursday, September 29, 2005

...Fate, Destiny and Coincidence

I’m about as cynical as they come as far as believing in concepts like “fate” or “destiny” or the supernatural. I read something not too long ago that gave a great explanation of the concept of coincidences and the tendency of many people to make far too much out of them. Think about how many events in your life DID NOT involve coincidence. How many times did the song you had in your head NOT happen to be playing on the radio as soon as you turned it on? How many times did you stub your toe, but your twin brother halfway across the country DID NOT feel a similar pain in his toe at the exact same moment? How often have you thought about someone you hadn’t heard from in awhile and DID NOT have that person suddenly e-mail you out of the blue?

In short, we experience such an infinite amount of non-coincidental moments during the course of our our lives that it only stand to reason every once in a blue moon the alignment of the stars will be such that it appears a significant coincidence or fateful moment has occurred, when really is was just kind of luck of the draw.

I suppose one could take a really romantic view of how I met my wife and chalk it up to fate and destiny. After all, if I hadn’t accepted an entry-level customer service job in an industry that had nothing to do with my college major, if I hadn’t made a rare impulsive decision a year later to take a promotion/transfer that sent me to Southern California and if I hadn’t stuck around at the company long after I sensed it was on a downward spiral towards bankruptcy I would never have met my future wife (who I met in my final year there) and never had the exact same perfect, wonderful, funny baby boy I have today. Were these events part of some master cosmic plan someone had in store for me? Maybe. But more realistically, I can’t help but believe these, and most of life, were a series of random accidents that in this case happened to work out nicely on my end.

Several years ago, my then-girlfriend’s mom got remarried after having been widowed for several years. During the ceremony a live deer could be seen through the window sitting in a patch of foliage next to the church. I was sitting next to two of my girlfriend’s friends during the ceremony (she was the maid-of-honor) and both started discussing the possibility of the deer being the reincarnation of my girlfriend’s stepdad, Maury. Now, to use the proverbial cliché, these two weren’t exactly rocket scientists to begin with, so I just chalked this up to their being sort of goofy. But after the ceremony, as I was standing next to my girlfriend, one of her mom’s friends walked over with tears in her eyes and excitedly asked, “Did you see Maury outside during the ceremony”? Pretty soon virtually everyone in attendance was talking about this event as if it were a matter of fact. This included many highly educated and intelligent people. As if there could be no other possible explanation for the sudden appearance of this deer other than it being the reincarnation of the bride’s former husband giving his blessing to the marriage. Other explanations like the fact the church was located in a mountainous area with a heavy deer population. It wasn’t so much the fantastical nature of what these people were suggesting that bothered me. It was the fact they had to consciously choose to ignore the more sensible, logical scenario to buy into it. Actively choosing to believe a dreamy and touching, but obviously fictional, idea.

I think it’s comforting for people to believe there is some grand, powerful force guiding their destiny. I guess it’s a lot more poetic to imagine some sort of cosmic fate is what caused you to meet your soulmate rather than acknowledging he or she just decided to settle for you because of a lack of better available options. I remember at my last job a few of us had to snicker when a co-worker claimed God had spoken with her that morning and told her it was ok she was putting her son in daycare. I believe in a higher power, which I know may contradict what I’ve written here, but sometimes tells me he, she or it has better things to do than discuss babysitting schedules with an Orange County administrative assistant.

I think it’s difficult for some people to wrap their minds around the idea their life doesn’t necessarily have a meaning. It’s not so fun to think that your parents had sex, you were born and a bunch of random events occurred that didn’t have any larger significance or greater purpose. So some people choose to believe these far out, highly questionable concepts like “FATE” and “DESTINY” because the alternative, thinking that your life is just a series of unrelated moments, is too upsetting.

Or maybe I’m totally wrong. Among the reasons my blog activity has been light at best in recent weeks is because work has become outrageously busy and stessful to the point I'm convinced taking up smoking would only improve my heart condition. As a small business owner, I guess this falls into the category of “Good Problems” (having more projects on our plate than we seem to have the manpower to execute) rather than “Bad Problems” (not having enough sales and worrying we might go out of business). But this does little to assuage the contact headaches (literally and figuratively), lack of sleep (averaging about 3-4 hours a night at best due to the constant tossing and turning and a brain unable to shut off) and the feeling someone is rapidly turning a bingo spinner inside my stomach. Combined with having to make all the final decisions on upgrades to our new house (“upgrades” being code for “highly overpriced things that will prevent the interior of your house from looking like shit, which you can bet it will look like if you go for what comes standard”), let’s just say I’ve seen better days. Every moment is a Maalox moment recently. I could use a break.

While I like to think my musical tastes are highly eclectic and varied, with my CD changer currently featuring artists as varied Steely Dan, Weezer, Stevie Wonder, Green Day and Mel Torme, the one genre of music you won’t catch me listening to ever is modern country of the Martina McBride, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill sort, the type that is really soft, cheesy, light pop but branded under the "Country" label. But this morning I was flipping channels on the radio and stopped when I heard some familiar pro wrestling theme songs playing. This was a segue into a contest a local country station was running where if you could answer a certain number of trivia questions about pro wrestling correctly you win two tickets to see WWE RAW live. This being one of the few areas where I consider myself something of an expert, I frantically dialed over and over hoping to be the elusive “Caller #10”. Several busy signals and redials later, I was. As I expected, I breezed through the trivia questions with ease and won the tickets.

How can that not be fate? Just happening to land on a station of a musical genre I absolutely detest the split-second they are running a contest that tests your knowledge of the one area I actually have higher than average expertise in and having my call go through at the exact right moment to get the chance? That can’t just be random dumb luck, can it?

Fate or not, I does present its own sort of problem. Two tickets, one me and two stepkids who both love wrestling. Maybe destiny will step in and help me figure out that part.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

...Why You Shouldn't Try to Talk All Tough

I hope I don’t wind up on some House Un-American Activities Committee or FBI watch list for mentioning the following incident, but this morning I was stopped at a red light behind a truck with a bumper sticker that read: THESE COLORS DON’T RUN.

I’m not going to mock anyone for their patriotism; I don’t think any person should be made to feel ashamed or ridiculed for having pride in their country. Yet I have to confess to having been confused by the sticker because in looking at it, I couldn’t make out what the text was supposed to refer to. Upon closer inspection, I saw a faded blue square with some white dots inside of it a few inches to the left of the text, but between the two was a long stretch of plain white background with only the faintest hint of what at one time I’m sure were red and white stripes. I don’t know if it was sun damage or rain damage or age or what, but one thing was for sure: The colors had *TOTALLY* run.
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