Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stray Dice

[Today's musings are a bit esoteric so forgive me if I leave you scratching your head or shaking it in disgust!]

What are the major "what-if's" in your life? Do you have many or few? Regrets or thanks for the outcome?

Some of the what-if's in my life that I have pondered have been things like:

What if I had remained at 36th Street School instead of attending Mrs. Capps' class for the sixth grade at 6th Avenue School?

What if my folks hadn't moved after I graduated from junior high, and I wound up going to Manual Arts instead of Dorsey for high school?

What if I had gone to work for a different public accounting firm than the one I chose? I met my (first) wife at Alexander Grant. If I had accepted a different offer, I wouldn't have met her and ergo, no Greg and no Katie. Going back a bit earlier from this, what if I had landed a permanent teaching position and stayed in that profession?

Wouldn't that be amazing if there was a device that could show you what would have happened? Something along the lines of what the angel showed George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life - although in that case it was what the world would be like if George hadn't been born, rather than showing the path arising from making a different choice than the one that was actually made.

Having such a device would be like seeing what was behind Door #3 on Let's Make a Deal after we chose Door #2.

You may sarcastically say, Yeah, I always wondered what would have happened if I hadn't eaten that 2nd piece of chocolate cake.

There's something called Chaos Theory, that postulates some seemingly random and small event, such as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world, can somehow be what gives rise to a major event like a hurricane in another part of the world, based on the way things domino from that small event.

Think of all the forks that arise out of a decision you make, albeit a small one, even one like deciding to eat another piece of cake. It branches out endlessly and exponentially. In some situations the forks branch back to the actual path or outcome at some point so that the end result is the same, but the way you got there is a little different. But in some situations the forks branch into a wild detour with completely different outcomes. The thing is, you really don't know just how much of an effect a seemingly minor decision will have, do you?

There's the intrigue what-if's, the results of which had we taken the other path are fun to daydream or fantasize about. Then there are the whew what-if's - the ones we look back on and say we are happy we made the decision we did, and we can see what the unfortunate consequences could have been. And there are the regret what-if's, the ones we dwell on and kick ourselves, asking why didn't we go in a different direction than the one we chose. Or, what would have happened had a twist of cruel fate beyond our control not sent us careening in an unintended direction.

So what does your stat page look like as far as numbers of the above and the percentages of each relative to the whole?

Another question - do you believe in fate? Do you think no matter what decision you made or path you took, somehow everything would intertwine to bring you to this very point right now, regardless?

I've had a few times where I was so affected by the "what-if" as in, why did I do what I did, that I even tightly closed my eyes, hoping I would wake up from a dream when I opened them again, as widely as I could. I wished so hard that there was a way to go back in time that I nearly started believing there was actually a way to do so. Or began believing there was some magical undo button that would initiate a series of actions that set in motion actions to make everything okay again.

Alas, life has no "undo" button. All of our actions are based to greater or lesser degree on an assessment of risk, and a rational evaluation of the possible consequences. Some we give hardly any thought to because of their seeming triviality (although who knows what our subconscious is doing in the way of processing.. that's another thing - do we really have a subconscious?) and others we may ponder endlessly, shifting back and forth, as we try and make a decision. We never really know how the action that seems trivial may ultimately affect us. Plus, there's always those things that come flying out of left field to throw a wrench into things.

So what is the point of all this (I seem to ask this a lot in this blog)? I don't know, I just felt like doing some mindless philosophizing today.

What is my own personal point of view? I try and act in a rational way but I know I've done plenty of things from impulse, and have also let temptation get the better of me and do what I know I shouldn't have done. Or not do what I know I should have done. In the case of asking a girl out on a date, I waited until wo minutes past the last minute and wound up doing nothing (which I suppose is a choice in itself). And sometimes I just don't know why I did what I did, but I did it. At times, what I thought were good choices turned out bad and what I thought were bad turned out good. Sometimes you get another chance, and sometimes you don't. Sometimes you feel like a nut..

Overall, though, I have no complaints. I am thankful for the many blessings I have and any "dissatisfaction" that I might have is mainly my own doing so there's no use whining about it. Good or bad, I feel I've received a good education. From the limited perspective of me, I'm a happy camper and am happy to be where I am.

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