Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Highly Improbable Moments

Which moments?  Every moment of your life.  And here’s what I mean.

Think about that time when you last ran into your buddy that you haven’t seen for a while at the hardware store, or you turned around to see your high school gal pal at a market that you hadn’t planned on going to that day.  Or, think about, sadly, the last accident you saw on a street somewhere.  And, think about when someone…anyone, wins the lottery.  Jackpot!

Those are all occurrences that are obvious to us and are unlikely to happen in each of our days.  They do happen, but just not that often.  But I submit to you that every moment of our lives is very unlikely.  Take the most banal event:  With the side of your arm, you accidentally brush an ink pen off of the counter at the auto mechanic where you’re getting your oil filter changed.  The pen lands in “that” specific floor tile.  You pick it up, and then put it back on the counter and you don’t think any more of it.  Why should you?  But I do.

What are the chances that the ink pen you knocked off of the counter would land on “that” tile on the floor, at exactly, say, 1:39pm and 18 seconds, on Wednesday, November 25, 2015?  Let’s put it another way, or two.  When you woke up, did you have in mind that you would knock a pen onto the floor in that shop at that time and onto that tile?  And if your neighbor, Jimmy, were a betting man, would he have woken up that same morning without contacting you and put down $100.00 that you would knock pen onto that tile that very same day and time?  Because, if he had bet on just the time of day alone, without all of the other myriad of variables, he would have beat the 86,400 to 1 odds and have earned himself a hefty $8,640,000 to go out to dinner with that evening. 

As you can see, the odds are already getting exponential about any of this happening.  Let’s go back further.  Let me go back to the year 1938 and talk to your grandfather and ask him, if believed that he’d ever have a child, and then a grandchild later in life, would he want to put a bet down on guessing some specific event, small as it may be, that might happen with his grandchild in the future?  What are the odds that he could guess that his son or daughter would have a grandchild of your gender, with your name, who would live in the town that you do, who would go to an automotive establishment that was built in the very location where you brushed the ink pen off of the counter on said date, time, and floor tile location?  My calculator is suddenly not expensive enough.

I know you’ve got it by now, but let’s go back to when the earth formed out of molten magma (as in, Dr. Evil’s, Mag!-Muh!) and, if you believe in evolution, that billions of years of life, species, and mammalian movements would specialize into humans who serendipitously took the place of those very large reptilians knocked out of line by the Yucatan meteor (and how likely are six-mile diameter meteors anyway?...that’s as wide as from Burbank to Sherman Oaks for Pete’s sake!), and then let’s see how likely your event really was. That somehow, through all of humanity’s inventions, crossing of oceans to new continents, designing of architecture, and business practices lead to the moment during your oil filter change when your arm popped the pen over the counter.  It’s as close to infinitesimal an event as one could possible conceive of. 

And yet, every moment of our lives exists in the reality of this near impossibility.  Every time you drive off of an off ramp of a freeway, and while you are stopped at the limit line, you witness a white car and a blue car pass together across the intersection at exactly that date, time, and location, it’s so unlikely that it would happen; unlikely to be a white and blue car, two cars with those specific individuals in them, those two individuals at exactly that time and place in their own lives…it goes on and on.  I often have to turn my brain off at this point. 

And every time that you have a private thought about something as you are entering an elevator, for example, it’s a completely unique experience because it will never happen again in that “place.”  And unless you believe in complete determinism from a power higher than us (I don’t), you have got to come to the realization that it is all a crap shoot.  Pretty much anything could have happened at any time.  But your actions do indeed determine an outcome. 

Whether you had children with this person and not that person, you would have loved which ever children you had no matter who they were from.  I think it’s especially hard for women to internalize this, being mothers, because they can’t see how their life could have happened any other way.  To do so would feel like a betrayal of their sprouts to some degree.  But it’s a truth of life, and these are the rose colored glasses we wear because the thought of randomness and chaos, I believe, frightens a lot of people if they give it any deep thought.

In the understanding of physics, there is the concept of space-time, which combines the dimensions of space (however many there are, we don’t know yet…string theory says there are around eleven) with the dimension(s) of time (a professor at U.S.C. is currently working on a multi-time dimensional theory).  If we were creatures that could understand space-time, we could not only remember our seventh birthday, but we could physically point to the event, if you can wrap your head around that. 

My point is that every event along the space-time continuum, which comprises every moment of your life, is a near impossibility. And accordingly, anything happens in a much more random manner, akin to the tiny scale world of quantum mechanics and unlike general relativity, than one would care to believe.