I don’t know what’s going on, but I find it ironic that as soon as I retired, I twisted my knee in kickboxing, fell ill from the flu, poisoned myself with dated seafood salad, contracted Covid, which put me in bed for days, including my birthday, and had my pilgrimage to Egypt and the Holy Land canceled due to the war that has broken out in Gaza.
I am not so egotistical to think that God is testing me or that these events have anything to do with me. Well, the ones that resulted from my own stupidity have to do with me; namely, twisting my knee and eating two-day old seafood from Safeway. But, certainly, Covid and the situation in Israel are part of actual, collective suffering beyond my personal experience of a high fever and inconvenience.
But what interests me is not what has happened so much as the timing of the events, lending credibility to the old saw, “when it rains, it pours.” I have experienced similar irony around death, since it seems to arrive in threes, leaving the rest of us waiting and wondering when shoes number two and three will drop.
Those of you who are data scientists, mathematicians, or have endured a statistics course may argue that the “threeness” of death exists only in my imagination and how I group phenomena rather than any algorithmic reality. And even though it seems as if twisted knees, bad seafood, and viruses come in prepackaged bundles like an internet service, the prepackaging is my own doing rather than an act of God.
Or is it?
The fact that we see patterns doesn’t necessarily mean that we created those patterns. Have we not merely recognized what is already in our environment, rapping us in the back of the head until we wake up? I can claim that death occurs in threes, because I have experienced that. The misfortunes that have happened since my retirement are “real” no matter how much I try to explain them away. In fact, I could graph them, thus giving mathematical certitude not just to their existence but to the “irony” of it all happening in just one week.
I expect more to happen to me personally as well as, unfortunately, the people of Israel. By this I mean that even if you stick to your Kantian guns and insist that I have created patterns out of the whole cloth of my mind, you have to admit that every act we perform affects the rest of the world in some way. This is the Butterfly Effect. I experienced my own butterfly effect just yesterday morning.
I left Peet’s Coffee and crossed the street to go to the local UPS Store. As I made my way toward the store, an old woman called me over. She was bundled up for snow in the 90 degree heat. She asked for directions to a homeless shelter, showed me the card of the shelter, and asked for fifteen dollars for the fare to get there. I gave her a buck and wished her well. By the time I finished my business, I decided I would go back and give her the rest of the money. She was gone, of course. I looked for her but she had vanished.
Angel? you ask. I don’t know. That’s always a possibility. Ripple effect? I expect so. I could have given her the money or, better yet, arranged for a Lyft ride and waited for it to arrive for her. No sweat off my back even if, I’m sure, there must have been sweat on hers. I keep telling myself I failed the test. That buck will choke me someday. After all, she looked like Lucia, the blind, black fortune teller from summer camp (see Camp Blink).
That’ll be just my luck.
Image credits: feature by Francois Le Nguyen; woman by Anthony Tran. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”