I'm at my best when I'm in sync with what's random

Posted on July 16, 2001

Like most people (I hope), I spend a lot of time thinking. My best thinking moments by far are when I'm in the shower in the morning, just after a nap and anytime I'm at Wal-Mart.

These times are best used for coming up with innovations, but I also revel in trying to determine the order of events in my life. Although I think living in the past is unhealthy, I think a good understanding of knowing where you have been will get you to where you want to be. The sequence in which your life takes you happens, and you have to make do of the situation when it presents itself.

The only problem with establishing some type of order based on experiences is that it will pretty much fail due to circumstances, particularly random events. Webster defines random as "purposeless haphazard." It is amazing how much your life can be transformed due to random and spontaneous happenings. Without it, life would be boring. A random occurrence doesn't necessarily make life exciting, but the actions taken by people and the circumstances that surround it can easily change a person's direction instantly.

For instance, what made me decide to write a column about randomness? Was it something spawned by work, at home, a mixture of both or just something random? Web site entrepreneurs are utilizing random things as well. I found two sites -- RANDOM.com and UROULETTE -- where you can click a button and pull up random Web sites. Unfortunately, I tried five times and twice got sites that did not exist anymore. The first time I tried UROULETTE, I got the Catholic Film Review. I am a Catholic, and I do like films, but I seriously doubt I would have ever visited this site otherwise.

Another cool site I found was the true random number service. You can generate up to 10,000 random integers and view them in a multitude of fashions. I also found a random joke site and a random fact site. The second fact I viewed stated the following: "Olympic badminton rules say that the shuttlecock has to have exactly 16 feathers. The best shuttles are made from the feathers from the left wing of a goose."

Considering my continuance of mentioning badminton in columns, I cannot believe that was random. This brings us to my comparison of randomness to synchronicity. Put simply, synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence. An example would be waking up in the morning singing "Hello" by Lionel Richie then hearing it when you go to work (for more in-depth discussions, visit Synchronicity: Trick or Treat? and Synchronicity and Acausal Connectedness).

So the question that lingers in my mind is this: Can a person ever truly do something that is completely random and spontaneous? It seems to me that while an action one takes may look completely random, that person would still have to have some knowledge in the action being taken, unless it is purely instinctual. But if the action were done on instinct, then that would be considered far from random because the person should perform that particular way if ever faced with that situation.

I just remembered how difficult it is to attempt to philosophize by myself. I ask questions not just to find answers but to find more information about a particular subject. It's hard sometimes to keep track of events that happened in reality, those that happened consciously in one's mind and those that happened subconsciously. The only thing concrete is if there is a package of bagels sitting on my counter, I surely went to Wal-Mart within the past few days.