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.