The first word in the title of this post was first introduced to me one night as I sat with my date in my apartment in Philadelphia. We had just finished eating dinner and were having conversation in what the apartment had to offer as a living room. I related to her a story that had the theme that destiny was the root of why the events happened.
Almost immediately, she tells me, “no that’s not destiny. It’s stochasticity. Completely random coincidence.”
I was puzzled because until that point, I truly believed in destiny. But now I had a new vocabulary word and along with it, a new idea to ponder. Could the coincidences that happen to us just be completely random events?
A few weeks ago, I was in a potato field with hoe in both hands on Canaan Slow Farm in Higashi-son, Okinawa. Shoveling dirt around these potato stems that seem to be growing at a rate of 5 cm a day – these things grow faster than the weeds it feels like – my mind, specifically my default mode network, heads off in a different direction than the hoe and mounds of soil. I reflect on my friends, and my mind stochastically arrives on thinking about Kristen who has recently moved to Shanghai. *Pause* in thought, but not in hoeing action. (Shanghai… who else do I know in Shanghai? Fanny is in Shanghai. Maybe I should shoot them a message and put them in touch. They have similar interests.) It becomes another minor task on my *To-do-list* once I have access to wifi, which is not often since most of my time wwoofing is spent hoeing dirt onto potato plants, planting green onions, cabbage and cauliflower, or eating and sleeping.
The next day I send the e-mail putting the two ladies of my past in touch with each other. I briefly provide an introduction and then hope that the ether will take care of the rest. The ether did take care of the rest. Turns out they work for the same company in Shanghai, are in the same Chinese class and even met each other through a mutual acquaintance’s Christmas party. But at the time, why would it even come to their mind that they both new me?
Kristen I knew from my time in Santa Monica and Fanny, my college days 6 years prior to Santa Monica.
Fast forward to the present, the most important time of your life. It’s the time where you can really affect someone’s life. You following your life’s path has more of an influence on someone else’s than you can imagine. A small conversation can give another ideas and provide a shift in their perspective. Their subconscious has a new toy to play with. Or the take the twitter story for example. The simple generous gesture of buying a bag of toiletries for Brahim. One could argue that bag saved his life. Maybe it gave Brahim hope. Maybe that bar of soap saved him from getting and infection.
So which is it: stochasticity or destiny?
Or are we living in a simulation? If life is like an RPG, or role-playing-game, then how much are we actually in control of in our ‘life’? Had ODP not bought the bag of toiletries for Brahim, would he have gained another brother 6 years later? Would he have achieved the necessary exp. points to level up his character from lvl 15 to lvl 16? If only we could engineer a complete simulator system where we throw in a few billion variables and see what the result of one action would be. Maybe that’s the simulator world we live in?
Regardless if it’s stochasticity, destiny or even a simulation, do the best you can. ODP and Brahim’s story shows the value of a good first impression. The lesson is not to make a good first impression for the sake of making a good first impression or for receiving a gift or favor in the future. No one could have foresaw (or could they have?) that the two would be reunited in a taxi in Arizona 6 years later.
The lesson my perspective has given me after a little reflection is that you will make a good first impression if your core character is sound. It starts from within. ODP had opened his heart to Brahim.
What would the world look like if more people walked around with their heart open?
I’m in Seoul. I’ve met some cool people here at Chingu Guesthouse in Hongdae. Specifically a cool kid named London. He’s got an interesting story. Spent time in jail, spent time with drugs, spent time in the US, spends time making music with his brother. He’s got an incredible will. People I’ve talked to have said that once you try heroine, you’re hooked for life. It’s the no-going-back drug. Not with London. He decided to stay clean of the stuff once he arrived to Korea. His goal is to change the Korean music scene. While I was having a conversation with some Malaysians and telling them my story in the common room London chimes in, “isn’t this guy so positive? I thought you were Fed at first.”
Me: “Fed? what do you mean?”
London: “You were asking so many questions, bro.”
Me: “If I was Fed, I probably wouldn’t have asked so many questions like that. They have better tactics.”
London: “Haha, yea true.”
London was very negative about his current situation when I first met him. When you get two boxes of ramen from the authorities after leaving jail to help him get back on his feet, it’s hard to stay positive with your life. He doesn’t feel like there’s anything left for him in the US after being deported. I’m hoping my positivity will change London’s life course for the better. And who knows, maybe we’ll see each other in 6 years in an Uber somewhere. Maybe I’ll be the driver if self-driving cars haven’t taken over the automobile landscape.
After meeting London, I have a restaurant recommendation in Austin, Texas. “Just tell them you know me. They’ll give you free food. My Aunt owns the place.” The next time I’m in Austin, you know where I’m headed. And it’s not in the hopes of free food… I can get that begging on the street if I wanted to. It’s because its now part of my life’s path. Hopefully for the better. (I was once asked, “what do you like to see when you travel?” I responded, “I don’t like to sightsee. I like to peoplesee.)
An idea for your next toast, “here’s to stochasticity, destiny and simulation (because it’s too hard tell which it is).”