Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Randomness


Yep, that's my car.
I got hit by a car yesterday, or I should say a truck slammed into my car in a parking lot with me and my kids in the car.  We are all fine, which is great, but still there is a lot of crap to deal with.

A lot of things had to come together to put me in that parking lot at that exact moment.  In fact, it almost feels like it was fated to happen.  First of all, it happened in the parking lot of my dentist office.  I was taking my oldest in to get her cavities filled--if only we had been better at flossing.    Second, her original appointment was scheduled for last week, but she got sick, so we had to reschedule.  They offered me an earlier spot, but I asked for a later appointment (I’m not much of a morning person).  And third, when I was getting ready, I almost took a shower, but I decided to skip it since it would make us late.  Now I wish I had been five minutes late.  It feels like the universe arranged all these events to put me in that parking lot at that time, so my poor car could be wrecked.

But why?  Why would fate want my car to be wrecked?  To teach the other driver to next time look before he backs up?  Maybe my accident saved some poor kid on a bicycle from getting ran over.  Or did I need to learn to be more assertive and honk earlier, or just grow from the experience of dealing with a car wreck? 

I don’t think so.  I think it just happened.

I’ve been driving for…hmmm, I don’t want to really calculate it, let’s just say for over fifteen years, and this was my first car accident.  With the number of cars on the road and the amount of time I spend driving, it really is surprising that I haven’t been in an accident earlier. There probably have been plenty of times when I made small choices that kept me from getting in car accidents that I don’t even know about.  I think the odds were stacked against me.

When I was young, my older brother got into a car accident.  His friend was a new driver, and he was driving a little too fast and lost control of the car and hit a tree.  Neither my brother nor his friend were wearing seat belts, but the friend was thrown from the car and died instantly and my brother stayed in and lived.

Physics kept my brother in the car, but small permutations in the direction and the speed and a hundred other little factors could have dramatically changed the outcome.  My brother could’ve been the one lowered into a grave at the age of seventeen.

I remember family members believing that my brother surviving the crash was a miracle that God had spared him.  They believed there was a reason he survived, that he had some great purpose.  But what makes my brother more important than his friend?  Why should my family get a miracle and his friend’s get a tragedy?  I do believe in God, but having him choose to save one life and let another die doesn’t fit my idea of God. 

Picture taken by me.  I love sunsets.
But it seems to me that we, humans (at least most of us), want there to be a reason behind these things.   We want there to be a purpose to tragic events.    We don’t like randomness, we like patterns and purpose because they give us the illusion that we have some control over what happens to us, that if we can learn something from the tragic event, we can stop it from happening next time. 

I think this is why random acts of violence like the tragedy in Aurora disturb us so much.  We understand crimes of passion, murder for inheritance, and even gang violence to some extent.  And because we understand the motives, we feel we have some control in preventing these things from happening to us.  But in these random shootings, there is no logic, there is no pattern, there is no way to protect ourselves and our families from these tragic events.  All we can do is play the odds.  And even when the odds are greatly stacked in our favor, it still leaves us feeling powerless.  

And in that powerlessness, we need to feel some semblance of control.  I think this is why we need stories.

We may not always see them, but stories are made up of patterns.  Even when the story is not predictable, the pattern is.  Everything that happens in a story has a reason, and eventually all threads tie together, building towards the climax.  Everything in the story has a purpose.  There is a sense of control in a story that we don’t have in real life, and I think that is what makes a story meaningful and satisfying.  Seeing in the story that control that we wish we had in real life.

I think we need a place where everything makes sense; where even when bad things happen, we know lessons will be learned and hearts changed, and all that suffering will have a purpose.  Stories give us that, and I think we need it.

Maybe our lives are nothing more than a series of random events strung together (or maybe it’s not, but only seems that way), but that isn’t necessarily bad.   We are made from those random events.  Our experiences, even the minor ones, shape us into who we are.  How different would you be if even small moments in your life were changed?  Just because there is no reason for these things to happen to us, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from them and grow and change.   And maybe stories can inspire us to look for opportunities to grow and embrace that change, so we can find meaning in events that had none.

Or maybe I just hit my head a little too hard during my car accident.  J

~MaryAnn

13 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, MaryAnn. I'm so sorry. I hate car accidents. I'm glad you are all okay.

    This is brilliant. Well done as always. I'm impressed that you got anything down today, let alone that you pulled brilliance out of your "I just got in an accident" brain, is testament to how lucky we are to have you on Prosers.

    Best of luck!

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    1. Thanks Sheena. We are okay, and that is all that is important. I'm afraid that my just been in an accident brain is a little uncensored. :)

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  2. So sorry about your car. I have been in a couple of accident (no one got hurt) but dealing with repairs and insurance sucks.

    I agree that a good story doesn't really provide meaningless information unlike real live which is full of dead ends.

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    1. Yes it does suck. :)

      Thanks for commenting.

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  3. I frequently wish that I could write my own life. If my life were a story, I know exactly what I want to have happen, not only in my own life but in all the people I love. Too bad life is not like that, and we just have to deal with what does actually happen. mm

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    1. Me too. Especially for my children. I'd love to be able to write their lives.

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  4. I'm so happy you and your kids are okay! Car accidents are a scary thing. You're right, though. A car accident in life is just that, an accident. In a book, it needs to be something more. And like Sheena, I'm amazed by your ability to post a blog, let alone thought-provoking one, after such a stressful day. You're one amazing Proser.

    Good luck with your car. I hope they fix it up soon!

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    1. Thanks Trisha. Car accidents are pretty scary and stressful, but it's really great to have support from my fellow prosers. You guys rock.

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  5. I always thought those sci-fi collision alert thingies should be installed in cars. Not that "someone's sniffing around your car's rear" thing, that's too close to do any good. Something that would work to a hundred steps distance. Of course then you need the thingie to read the minds of those around you to determine which ones will pass harmlessly by and those that shouldn't be allowed to drive.

    On another topic, a nice bit of philosophy. You might've just stumbled on an answer to a question I've been working on for a while. I've been trying to make sense of the so different responses to George R R Martin's merciless treatment of characters. If stories are indeed our way of putting order into the world, then it would make sense for people to hate a story where characters are not safe because an artifical world should be safer than the real one.

    Will ponder on this some more. Get well soon.

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    1. Yeah, the guy who hit me could've used a collision alert thingy. I think those are only in high end vehicles.

      I haven't read A Song of Ice and Fire series yet, The Wheel of Time series has made me wary of any series that appears to be never ending, but I have heard complaints about how George R R Martin kills off his characters. I agree it goes against what the audience expects. Main characters can die, but they usually not until close to the end, and their death has to mean something. I'm not sure if Martin violates this or not, but if he does, that might be why some readers complain.

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  6. Although many people perceived that it’s just an accident due to other people’s mistakes, for me, perhaps what happened to you and your kids might have a good reason. It's probably because there's a mission or a task that you need to do. But still, it's good to know that your family is feeling fine despite the accident.

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  7. Although many people perceived that it’s just an accident due to other people’s mistakes, for me, perhaps what happened to you and your kids might have a good reason. It's probably because there's a mission or a task that you need to do. But still, it's good to know that your family is feeling fine despite the accident.

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  8. I do believe that accidents happen if we only let them. It’s not an act of nature. It’s something that can be avoided and prevented. If it’s not your fault the accident happened. The other parties are to blame for that. Accidents happen because, at some point, some of us ignore precautionary measures.

    Barbie Mauricius

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