Things I was wrong about

In Beauty, I wrote that if it weren't for my dad's first wife passing away and him remarrying to my now mother, I would have never come into existence. And I treated this occurrence as a special, interesting fact of existence. But actually, it's not that interesting at all.

I've become sort of obsessed with cause and effect over the past few years, stemming from my fateful encounter with an injection of an MRI contrast agent that turned out to be a toxic heavy metal that imparts upon you a lifelong uncomfortable disease. From that moment on, I couldn't stop thinking about how close I was to escaping. If only I said no or if only I asked more questions. That one fateful hour will forever haunt my conscience.

But actually that moment is not that interesting either. It's not fateful. If cause and effect is interesting, then every second of every day would have to be interesting, and if everything is interesting, nothing is. "If it wasn't for my dad's wife passing away I would never exist" is a dumb statement, because where does this chain of cause and effect really start and end? There was an infinite series of connected events that lead to that moment, and infinite events after that moment, and the result is I am here today.

"If Steve Jobs didn't take that course on calligraphy..."

"If Tim Berners-Lee never struggled with knowledge management at CERN..."

"If Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace never met..."

The world isn't orchestrated. For every fateful encounter between a Steve Jobs and a Wozniak, there are infinite missed encounters that could have been far more consequential. We are biased towards treating the present-day as meaningful, when really, it's kind of...nothing. Event A lead to event B lead to event C—this is just how the universe works, and that is hardly its most interesting property.

It's actually quite unimpressive. Out of the infinite number of ways your life could have turned out, it converged on a single outcome. And it's either shitty or magnificent, or most likely somewhere in between. And if it turned out any other way, it would have been just as shitty or magnificent. The "cause and effect" property of the universe is not that riveting.

That if you had arrived at an intersection one second sooner, you would have been struck by a semitruck is not a fateful, life-sparing incident bestowed upon you by the gods. It is in fact just the outcome that an infinite series of cause and effect have converged upon. The sheer infinitude of it all precludes fate, destiny, and divine or extraterrestrial meddling. The gods can't arrange for or make sense of the branching, organized chaos any more than you can.

It's quite freeing really to fall out of love with a sentimental universe. Fate is a tantalizing mistress. She giveth and she taketh away. Oh the possibilities. Similar to the butterfly effect, some insignificant person a thousand years ago stubbing their toe could have forever altered your life today. This is just not an interesting fact, or one worth contemplating. It's just your mind playing with words and time.

This also makes me question my previous stance on evolution and natural selection. In previous posts I had mentioned that I found it fishy that natural selection could find novel and brilliant solutions to problems way quicker than a process of randomness should. But, I don't know. Maybe it's less random and more "some minor twitch or hiccup here"—after an infinite series of cause and effect—lead to some chance miraculous solution there. Not random, but an unfathomable compounding of cause and effect, with a tinge of quantum randomness sprinkled in.

Or maybe, come to think about it—if cause and effect is not that interesting—then our existence isn't either, and our sentiment towards our uniqueness is again our mind playing footsy with itself. Of the infinite outcomes the universe and evolution could have converged on, we are just some outcome. Perhaps the fateful moments and branches in evolution that lead to humankind is as disinteresting as the fateful moments that led to me meeting my wife, my father meeting his, and his meeting his. It's all sort of like...🤷‍♀️.

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