image from campusmatters.net
For those of you who have read my novel, THE POPE’S STONE, you know that I have an interest in the elements of time and place and how they relate to each other and the events in our lives. It has always fascinated me when people have avoided disaster merely because something changed in the process. Here is a common example: George is a passenger who, for one reason or another, did not board a flight he had originally intended to take, only to learn that very flight had subsequently crashed. Maybe George was late getting to the airport because of traffic and he missed the flight. Or George called the airline at the last minute to change flights to a later one because a meeting he was attending was extended. The variables could be endless, but they all would have had the same result: George did not get on the fated airplane. He no doubt would have had a “Whew!” moment when he became aware of the situation. The elements of time and place were not favorable for George to die this day because they did not occur at the identical juncture they would have had to
The opposite circumstance, the one we don’t pay any attention to, is just as possible. What if the second flight George boarded was the one that actually crashed. This time the variables in George’s schedule didn’t help him avoid disaster, they actually aligned to make disaster happen. If he hadn’t been delayed in traffic or if the meeting had ended on time he would have gotten on the earlier flight and arrived safely at his destination.
I surmise that George has far fewer “Whew!” moments than he does everyday, safe, inconsequential sequences. I come to this conclusion even though it is probably incorrect. A mathematician or scientist, I suppose, would tell us both sides of the equations are equal. But I like to think they are not. Otherwise the time and place at which disasters occur would be much more prevalent. We would be experiencing disasters non-stop as opposed to disasters that did not happen even though we don’t know they didn’t happen. I sense you’re pulling away at this point. I know, it is worse than trying to figure out the big bang thingy.
Let’s say it’s a normal weekday for you and you‘ve left the house to go to work, school, shopping, a doctor’s appointment—whatever. Did you leave the house on time this morning? Maybe you left thirty seconds earlier than usual…or maybe two minutes later. Which situation may have—or may not have—resulted in your having an accident with another driver who went through his own set of variables before your cars met at the same time and in the same place. This can make one pretty paranoid. You’d be seeing disaster resulting, or not resulting, from every move you make. Imagine all the second-guessing you’d be doing for just about every action you take.
Many people don’t go as deep into all this as I do. They don’t define events, good or bad, by the perfect alignment or, nonalignment, of time and place. They express the phenomenon in other terms: it was meant to happen; it was fate; it must have been his/her time; when your number’s up, it’s up.
The next time (and place) that some event, good or bad, happens to you, stop for a moment and think about all the variables that had to align for you and the event to occur at the same time and in the same place.
The problem for me comes at night when I grab my teddy bear and tuck myself in. How was my day? Did any disasters occur? Well, not today–no disasters. Hmm, pretty simple. But then, how many disasters did not occur because of something that changed in my time or place? I don’t know the answer to that. Hmm, not simple! What about now, right this very second when I am writing this blog? What events in time or place occurred, or did not occur, that would have sparked an entirely different subject for today’ blog…and how many of you wished it had?
Maybe it’s best to leave you with a little Rogers and Hart…
It seems we stood and talked like this before.
We looked at each other in the same way then.
But I can’t remember where or when.
Books by Marc Kuhn. Information at http://www.marckuhn.com
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