Thought for the Week
In response to the assertion that occurrences in the natural world are random, Albert Einstein replied, “That nonsense is not merely nonsense, it is objectionable nonsense.” Are random events actually the result of some complex intentionality; is the word “random” a lazy placeholder for what we don’t yet understand? Or is Einstein wrong, are random events and coincidences merely a matter of chance, after all? Quantum physicist Frank J. Tipler answers with a firm no: “There is no ‘chance’ in reality…the universe has a goal, and each atom has a goal…and since animals and plants are made up of atoms and are small parts of the universe, they also have goals.”
There is an intriguingly ironic quality to these coincidences:
America’s most famous actor, and a dedicated supporter of the Union during the Civil War, saw a young man fall onto the train tracks in front of an oncoming train. He leaped down and pulled the young man to safety just in time. The young man, Robert Todd Lincoln, didn’t recognize him. Only months later, after his father Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, did Robert realize it was Booth’s brother Edwin who had saved him. Robert publicly thanked the actor, reviving Edwin Booth’s career after his brother’s crime had derailed it.
Mark Twain was born during a rare every-75-years appearance of Halley’s Comet. Twain wrote, “It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet; the Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” Sure enough, in his 75th year, just as Halley’s Comet appeared, Twain passed away.
Violet Jessop was a steward on the ocean liner Olympic when it went down in 1911. The following year, she moved to an “unskinkable” new ship – the Titanic. She heroically stayed on board as it was sinking, helping others into the lifeboats, but then was handed a baby and forced to climbed into a lifeboat herself to save it. A few years later, she was serving as a nurse on the hospital ship Britannic when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Ignoring her own safety, she helped save hundreds of passengers, and was thereafter affectionately referred to as “Miss Unsinkable.”
South African astronomer Danie du Toit gave a lecture on how death can strike anyone at any time. At the conclusion of his lecture, he popped a mint into his mouth and (unintentionally) choked to death on the spot.
Frenchman Henri Tragne participated in five duels without ever firing a shot. He won the first four when each of his opponents died suddenly of natural causes. In his fifth duel, Tragne himself dropped dead before either man had fired their weapon.
Upon finding a copy of Jack Frost and Other Stories in a 1920s Paris bookshop, popular American children’s author Anne Parrish told her husband how much she’d loved this book as a child. When they opened the copy, she found the following inscription: “Anne Parrish, 209 N. Weber Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado.”
If the above coincidences served some purpose, then perhaps the seemingly random events and coincidences in our lives, good and bad,
Serve some purpose as well.