Turns of Hap

I’ve enjoyed meeting many distant colleagues this month during the Slice of Life Challenge, and I have drawn inspiration from many insightful writers.

Yesterday morning, I read a post by Rita DiCarne about timing and how particular moments bring about interactions or experiences based simply on chance convergences.  This reinforced my wonder at the randomness of the world around us.  Rita’s reflection inspired me and launched my imagination.

We do not use the noun hap much these days.  It is an old word meaning “luck” or “chance.”  If we look closely, we can see this word as the root of more familiar words such as happen, happy, perhaps, or hapless.  Of course, knowing what hap is, we begin to look at these words in a different manner.

Many of us enjoy the exercise of thinking about or discussing the long odds against any particular one of us having been born.  Our parents had to meet first, become attracted to each other, and remain together at least long enough to conceive us.  In that conception, millions of reproductive cells–each carrying scrambled genetic information–competed to match up with a different, single reproductive cell with its own scrambled half of a genome.  For me to be myself in the precise form I take now started with a specific genetic outcome whose odds of occurring are infinitesimally smaller than those of my winning the next MegMillions jackpot and being struck by lightning on my way to redeem the ticket.  This consideration comes after the similar odds of my parents having come into being and meeting each other, as well as my grandparents having done so, and so on back.

And as neuroscientists are proclaiming with more and more research to corroborate them, our experiences make us who we are.  Countless chance encounters every day shape us and guide our path.  Even with the most mindful, deliberate approach to our lives, chance acts on us in every moment of our existence.

Randomness is the quantum force in our existence, and we can only begin to know our intimate connection to it.  It drives artists and philosophers to the fragile edges of their senses, and it delights the shaman.

Understood this way, these realities profoundly humble us.  We are the products of fortune, and in the deepest sense, we embody hap.

Turns of Hap

A brief delay in walking out the door,
A dash back in to get forgotten keys,
A pause to pick up papers from the floor,
All then refract the beams the traveler sees:
An altered flow of faces in the street;
A separate set of senses then that sends
Each mind upon a vectored ray to meet
Unknown new starts and unpredicted ends.
As vast potentials gather into cloud,
And down the endless moment on us rains,
So hap with will and whim our lives will crowd,
Indifferent to our conscious plans and pains.
     As chance will choose its flight and where it lands,
     We act as fortune moves our hopeful hands.



12 thoughts on “Turns of Hap

  1. I love how you took a word and crafted such an interesting post around it. Maybe you will bring the word back using it and writing about it!

  2. Interesting thoughts for a Friday morning! This has been on my mind as I think about what we pass on to our children (genetics) and what was given to us or what changed in the passing that we will never know or understand.

    Like the poem at the end – Thanks for sharing!

  3. It’s true, when you think about it, it’s a wonder that any of us is here. Your reflection reminded me of Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…
    These lines: And every fair from fair sometime declines/By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed”

  4. My son and I used to discuss the concept of random. I believe he used to say there is no random. I’m not sure why. But it reminds me of the sack of rice experiment. It is supposed to demonstrate what random actually looks like because when the rice spills out it will land in varying groups with no rhyme or reason. Kind of like what random should be.

  5. Love love this! You could be on NPR’s a way with words… your post reminds me of that podcast. I love your last line in your poem “We act as fortune moves our hopeful hands.”

  6. An excellent statement on the randomness of life- my takeaway was that we are brought to different encounters by different forces- we look back at those encounters as providence- after all, we need our “story” to make sense. It’s all very micro and macro at the same time. The small differences that make up our lives… you have consistently given me a lot to think about- keep writing!

  7. I love your sonnet! I am so impressed with that crafting. I love that final couplet, and also the one before: “So hap with will and whim our lives will crowd,/Indifferent to our conscious plans and pains.”

    1. Thanks for noticing that portion of the poem. Thomas Hardy wrote a dour poem on this topic (also a sonnet), and I wonder whether the lines you quote represent his influence on me all these years after I first read it.

  8. Along these same lines, there is a book about God winking where the ‘wink’ is some coincidence of chance happening that impacts our lives. The possibilities are endless when we really look back on our lives of how a single decision – made by me or made for me- has impacted the rest of my life. Great thoughts!

  9. Thank you for the “shout out.” As always your writing has given me much to think about. I believe that our experiences are shaped by our choices, some luck, and a higher power, but I welcome “unknown new starts and unpredicted ends.” I enjoy the juxtaposition in your writing between passages that make me chuckle and passages that make me challenge my thinking.

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