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What are the chances? (Part 2)

TL;DR: Much ado about nothing

I am on an elevator ride up to my hotel room in London after a science conference. My eyes are glued to my phone. Twitter. As the doors are about to slide shut, tiny arms of children reach through to catch the elevator. 8 of them, boys and girls, drenched, in their bathing suits and towels. I get embarrassed. I put my tweeting on hold. As the first few trot in, they hold the doors and wave down the rest to hurry. Shepherding them is a dad. Tall, in gym cloths, an iPad in one hand, and A&W drink in the other. No dad bod to be seen.

He attempts to calm down the troop; at 9:30PM, the kids individually carry more energy than the dad and I combined. He‘s tired, and maybe annoyed at the whole arrangement — while he sports a soft smile and would probably jump to reassure you that he enjoys all of this, he clearly drew the short end of the stick when it comes to who’s going to be the Designated Dad for the night.

I empathize. We ascend.

“HEY! You should take a selfie with him, he’s famous!” pointing to the dad.

Is she talking to me?

I turn around to acknowledge the girl and smile, slowly turning back to take a good look at the dad.

I recognize him. In fact, he was a mainstay of my middle and high school days when I watched the news every evening. Dwight Drummond was his name, of CBC News fame.

This guy.

Double take. He looks up and smiles back. His calmness shows that this was not the first time he’s encountered such an interaction.

“You’re that guy on CBC!”

“Yeah, yeah,”

“I used to watch you all the time.”

“Really? Appreciate it, man!”

I decide against the selfie, the least I can do for him at that time was give him the respect and space to be a normie like me for an evening.

He gathers the kids and get off before my floor.

I am alone, again. I take back out my phone. I continue refreshing.

What are the chances?

Chance is probably not as random as we make it out to be. I alluded to the idea of how we are likely living our lives based on probabilities, which consequently makes it seems much more likely that chance behaves in a similar fashion. Perhaps, you or I or anyone and anything in this universe create decisions that aggregate to push the needle in different directions. The needle sometimes gets pushed past a thresholds, which enables things to occur.

But it’s not that simple, is it?

Holes already appear in this notion, though. A needle seems too binary and we all know that that is simply not representative of reality. It’s never truly a decision between yes or no.

Theories, thus, cannot possibly describe all that has, is, and will occur. I can’t possibly subscribe 100% to the theoretical physics point of view that we can model everything. It seems too simple to say that there is a reason or a WHY behind all that occurs; although it’s satisfying, it’s just too easy.

Can it be that there is no explanation?

Do we even have the capacity to consider these questions in a meaningful way?

Are we really just finding comfort in our own little lies?

Surely, I’m not the first to consider these questions. Ignoring its religiosity (yup, still agnostic), the biblical story of Job offers a compelling exploration of this topic.

Job by Léon Bonnat, c. 1860

Despite being a man of strong faith and loyalty to God, Job had his life systematically tormented by Satan. Job loses his entire family. He loses his possessions. He becomes diseased. Job is your biblical Bad Luck Brian. And as he suffers, Job ponders about his state with his friends:

“Why? Why does God allow this to happen to me?”

For, if Job has sinned, he wishes to confess and change so he can end his suffering. And if he hasn’t, then God should acquit him of this suffering. Job just wants to know why, and he wants to know from the Man himself.

God finally responds.

Job 38:1–3

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.”

But God does not answer Job’s question. Sarcastically, God goes on to remind Job of how He created the earth, celestial bodies, and miracles upon which Job is afforded the privileged to exist within.

God continues.

Job 38:16–18

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?

Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.”

God puts Job in his place — mere humans, like Job, simply cannot begin to accomplish or understand all that God has.

Maybe we are in over our own heads, because what we are truly hoping to achieve when we ask WHY, is the meaning of life. Asking “WHY” in the face of chance, or uncertainty, is our meagre attempt to instil order in hopes that all of this isn’t just a result of meaningless chaos.

A few musings from our mutual friend, Bill:

Othello, Act V, Scene II — Shakespeare

“Demand me nothing. What you know, you know.”

Hamlet, Act II, Scene II — Shakespeare

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

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