Conscious Aging: Randomness

As I’ve said before, I maintain a periodic but regular email correspondence with friends in other parts of the country. We rarely see each other, and as I’m not a phone chatter, we never talk by phone. But we think about similar kinds of things, and enjoy exploring each other’s viewpoints.

One such friend is a former high school classmate. His first wife and the mother of his grown children died very young, much younger than Jerry. My friend had a second, brief and unsuccessful marriage, and is now happily married to his third wife. Like me he is retired but more professionally/politically active than I am, in that he writes pro bono policy papers for progressive Democratic candidates and office holders around the country.

What he and I talk about via email, mostly, is ideas. Most recently he proposed the notion of “randomness”.

I have friends far more religious than I who believe that God has a plan for them and is intimately involved in the twists and turns of their daily lives. I’m not sure how the experience of randomness plays for them, or if it does at all. But it’s a central reality in my life. I walked past the crane that fell at Mercer and Fairview in Seattle the week before, not the day of the accident. A car that was running a red light downtown came to a screeching stop three inches away from my right knee, not three inches past the point of contact. Peace Corps Panama location planners dropped me on Minga’s doorstep, not in any one of 99 other sites where I might have been placed in the midst of the fall rainy season in 1967.

You get the idea.

Randomness is a hard reality for control freaks, who like to think that someone — even if not them — is in charge. I have my own control issues, but not around randomness. I’ve long known that life can dump you, like a tsunami, upside down, backwards, and 180 degrees opposite from where you started out.

Randomness for my reflective friend has worked in his favor, at least in the big things. His father, a young Jewish man in Germany, got out ahead of Hitler’s minions. Family and friends in the same small town, the same neighborhood, the same street, did not. Randomness has worked for me in the big things too. Minga and I forged a lifelong friendship.

And you? Do you experience life, at least in part, as a random walk? If you’re a believer in God’s plan, does randomness play a part in your thinking at all?

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