You will often hear people claim that “it’s a small world.” But this is just a comforting lie that we like to tell ourselves. The truth is that the world is terrifyingly immense, and endlessly strange. It’s not small, and it’s not smooth, nor round, either. Between wherever you are and the horizon, there are monsters. Take a wrong step, open a wrong door, wander too close to any edge, and you might very well disappear.
“Everything happens for a reason” is another consoling truism we love to spew. I suppose I can go along with that one, as long as the supposed “reason” has something to do with cause-and-effect, or random chance. In the absence of evidence, I refuse to believe in sentient interventionist forces, either divine or infernal. Shit, as they say, just happens. It happens, for good or ill, by virtue of random configuration, or because we bring it upon ourselves or upon others.
I do believe in the power of hard work, kindness, wisdom, resilience, learning, creativity, and joy, the role that they can play in shifting our experiences towards the good. Mostly, though, I believe in the capricious power of “luck,” by which I mean currents of numerical happenstance far beyond our calculation or control. Like horse races and blackjack, life is a game of chance, albeit with far more variables at play. And this world of ours is a silver-blue gambler’s coin, spinning eternally in space. Genetics, birth order, where we are born and when, who we are born to, and much of what happens to us throughout our unpredictable lives: all strokes of random chance. Neither good nor bad, just the way it is.
As I started by saying, the world is terrifyingly immense and endlessly strange. Luckily, the other side to this gambler’s coin is that it is also immeasurably beautiful, as chock-full of wonders as it is horrors. Cancer and moonlight, brutality and music. At any given moment, there are atrocities being committed, but also acts of breathtaking benevolence. The roots of love are every bit as deep and tangled in the human psyche as the roots of hate, and just as likely to flower.
Perhaps there is no equation that balances out the light and the dark. But perhaps it is enough to believe they are equally profound; just knowing and accepting that our lives are filled with a great measure of both.
Wander into the vast weirdness of the world, travel to the edges of the map, and you might very well encounter a sea serpent. But you might also find yourself standing on a cliff’s edge beneath spectacular constellations, looking down upon a sheltered bay where the mermaids are singing.
Either way, I wish for you that your life will be an interesting adventure. Staying in one place and taking no chances may be the riskiest, and certainly the dullest, option of all. And it seems like an ungrateful way to honour the dizzying-odds-defying fortune that brought you into existence in the first place.
But whatever, shit happens. I do hope that good choices and good fortune accompany you, wherever and however far you may choose to roam.