Chance or Fate? (God’s computer) Part 2
I’ve been thinking more about this whole question of Chance or Fate, and what I like to think of as “God’s Computer”: a purely personal title since I do essentially believe in some force that I call “God.” (Others might prefer to substitute a less loaded word such as “life.” Similarly, for convenience, I use the word “pray” while others might prefer “want.”)
When we pray for, or want, a particular thing or result, the outcome depends on so many other circumstances that even the best computer would be unable to sort them out. Everything depends on everything else—which is often expressed in a common saying (which I can never remember exactly) that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world brings about some huge event elsewhere. To take a more immediate example from our own lives: say we have applied for one particular job, which we pray to get. Others have prayed for it too, and obviously someone has to be disappointed. Has the “prayer” not worked?
In this life we seem constantly to be in competition with others, even if we don’t desire it. Take my current preoccupation with getting published and gaining recognition (not just mine, of course). A traditional publishing house can publish only so many books, and for every “best seller” there have to be “worse sellers.” Everyone wants to come out on top. So how does “God” or “life” sort it all out on the “computer”?
One problem is that we all desire specific outcomes. I have several times been miserable over a job (or an acting role, or a directing role, or a particular relationship) that I didn’t get, only to be grateful later that I didn’t get it because things turned out a lot better anyway.
To give only one example. Between school, national service, and university I worked in the London office of a well-known British travel company, with the idea that during my subsequent university vacations I should work for it as a representative abroad. But by the time I was at university and could apply, the personnel officer who knew me had changed, and I obviously didn’t impress her substitute, who turned me down in favour of others. Devastated, I wrote back complaining, and she relented by offering me the only job left, as a representative in Scotland. Second-best, I thought—and indeed in subsequent years I worked in Switzerland. But Scotland gave me a love for that country and an interest in the Gaelic I heard spoken there, without which my life would have been immeasurably poorer.
Looking back over my life there is really little to regret. All my prayers to “God’s computer” were answered so as to bring about what I most desired, even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Is this the same as saying that everything, always, turns out for the best? I haven’t the right to say this for others, but for me I have to say that “God” has never let me down—although I need constantly to remind myself of this when things don’t seem to be going my way.
In the first part of this article I gave several examples of the way life can often work out for the best. Let us remember too the little unexpected things, which afterwards seem so normal that we immediately forget them. I once acquired a girl-friend for a while because the hotel I normally booked for a skiing holiday was full and I was forced to choose another one, where I met her. Some quite unknown person had taken the last room in my usual hotel and, without knowing it, had altered my life for some months. We can easily invent reasons for that person too and why the booking was made just then: friends with an invitation, an unexpected few days off work, dissatisfaction even with another hotel. And behind all these were various other reasons too…
I have surely had the same effect on others’ lives, without being aware of it. We are all part of a complex interaction of events stretching out to the whole of life, to the distant places of this earth, and even to our ancestors and the beginning of the universe. And yet, to quote a favourite line of mine from Shelley, expressing a typical romantic attitude: “We look before and after, and pine for what is not.”
Sometimes I complain that, although my life has been pretty easy with no real disasters or upsets, there haven’t been enough of the little “unexpected things,” the “extras” to make me more successful, better known or whatever. But even here, if think carefully, of course there have been the “unexpected things”--many, many of them--I have acted on and then forgotten about as seeming totally normal. Again, one example only: I got involved in directing for the local theatre just because someone had seen me in the audience at many performances and, without my doing anything, suggested my name to the committee seeking directors. I’ve been directing there ever since—but of course still belly-aching to myself if I didn’t get the play that I wanted!
Does it not follow from this that we have to joyfully accept everything that happens in our lives, including opportunities to help others in their lives too—with the assurance that it all goes into “God’s computer” and will turn out for the best, often in a way that do not foresee?
A. Colin Wright's novel Sardinian Silver can be ordered from any bookstore, from www.amazon.com and other amazon sites, from www.barnesandnoble.com, and from www.iUniverse.com.