throwing marbles into a fire

Throwing Marbles Into A Fire

“Most of the time – 99 percent of the time – you just don’t know how and why the threads are looped together, and that’s okay. Do a good thing and something bad happens. Do a bad thing and something good happens. Do nothing and everything explodes.

And very, very rarely – by some miracle of chance and coincidence, butterflies beating their wings just so and all the threads hanging together for a minute – you get the chance to do the right thing.”

― Lauren Oliver [footnote]OK so this isn’t a usual quick quote job, but a full post. I have used this quote to begin with because it is a beautiful quote and is a great way to begin a post on randomness![/footnote]

Fire

I found a marble in the soil the other day, a nice, round, glass marble. I showed it to my friend who told me a story of when he was younger and would throw his marbles into a fire, just so he could go and look what kinds of shapes they had morphed into the next day.

This got me thinking about randomness. The shapes that my friends marbles turned into could be the very definition of randomness.

For example, the only way to accurately predict what shapes the marble would turn into, you would need to conduct a scientific experiment.

You would need to know and control all of the variables involved such as:

  • The fuel
  • Container
  • Ambient temperature
  • Consistency and density of the marble
  • What it is placed on and more

Even after careful planning and consideration, the prediction would still be a prediction and not a certainty. This is because events that are almost impossible to notice or consider could still have an effect on how the marble melts.

We can have no idea about future events. We can predict; but never be 100% certain.

What does throwing marbles into a fire have to do with anything?

throwing marbles into a fire
Photo by Zoltán Vörös

Well, our lives are random.

We are born, live our lives and then die. There is no reason for us to exist, let alone in the physical and mental forms that we do. [footnote]Unless you are religious and believe that you are here for a reason. I do not follow that school of thought, but I certainly respect people who do. For the purposes of this post, i will leave out any solid religious argument for our existence and instead focus on a purely coincidental idea of randomness.[/footnote]

The internet defines randomness thusly:

” lacking any definite plan or prearranged order; haphazard”

thefreedictionary

So our lives, past and future are random. The only real way to influence an order of events is to influence the present. By focusing on what matters, we can attain a level of awareness that can truly alter random events into our favor.

Lacking in any definite plan

If our lives are random and lack any kind of definite, solid plan to base our futures on, how can we achieve a good life?

If we really think about it, the fact that our lives could random actually means that we are much more free to pursue the things we want to.

If we can forge our own paths in lives, without any kind of outside influence, then we are free to achieve anything we want.

I worked with an Indian university student once in the UK who was studying in Scotland. He was [footnote]and still is I guess[/footnote] a ferociously clever guy. He was studying the process by which electrical products “speak” to each other; or how a memory unit in your mobile telephone would speak to the antenna and screen and touch inputs etc. Basically way out of my league in terms of sheer mental aptitude.

But he was also a thoroughly nice chap who would impart interesting nuggets of wisdom to me every now and then. Some things I would disagree on with him such as his attitude to the poor of India.

Which when looked at from his point of view, was understandable because he came from a poor family, yet still managed to travel to the UK and work hard to fund this venture, and so on. But other times he would really come up with some gems.

One I will always remember was his view on life. He said that our lives begin as a water source at the peak of a mounting. As we make our way down as a river, we are slowly carving out sections through the solid earth. If we hit a particularly hard section, we divert around it. The end point of our lives was to reach the ocean. To reach our deaths.

As morbid as this sounds, it makes sense to me. Our path through life is completely random, apart from the fact that we came into existence and that our existence will end some day; the path we travel is out of our control.

Can we ever pierce this randomness?

Maybe with a powerful enough computer and enough time, one could just about work out anything, similar to Laplace’s demon:

An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.

—Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities

This is interesting to think about; but functionally impossible. The state of the universe is constantly shifting. Even if we could know every atom and particle, by the time we have sorted that information, an entirely different state of affairs would have emerged!

So why all the talk about randomness?

Fractal
Flickr

I like to think that although randomness is as esoteric principle, i.e. a concept that only exists in the brains of those who think; it is still a fundamental part of our universe.

Why did we come into fruition and get these big brains of ours, why did not some other just as undeserving creature not become the apex animal on Earth?

The fact that the big bang occurred is random. That 4.6 billion years ago the sun got so dense it exploded into a nuclear furnace is random. That 4.5 billion years ago some clumps of space dirt had a mass roman style orgy and fused together is random. That dinosaurs, the neanderthals, Homo Sapiens, old empires, new empires, sovereign states, earthquakes and duck billed platypuses exist, is entirely random. It is Haphazard and we seem to be a mere consequence of these events.

Conclusion

Our lives are completely unpredictable. We can never know what is around the corner. Any plan we make for ourselves is just like someone trying to predict the shape of a melted marble; it is futile.

Basically we are the marbles in a fire. Our lives have no set path. The only things we can ever be certain of is that we are thinking things & that we will die one day.

Now I am not trying to say don’t make plans or think you can only sit in the middle of the room naked and in the fetal position because you are scared of going out and facing the random world we inhabit.

Knowing our random nature can help to understand the real need to live for the here and now and not be obsessed with what was, or what might be. We must live in the only moment in time that we can be sure about; the present.

Check out this great video from Vsauce, one of my favorite YouTube personalities. In the video, he explains in much greater detail than I could ever do, all about randomness and how it affects us.

As always, please be sure to share, friend on Facebook, consider a comment and prepare for posts 🙂