When Life gets Random..

Of course you have control issues. Life is a bitch and then you die. But worse than being short, nasty and brutish, life is terribly random. For anyone who is not the Silver Surfer and cannot ride the Quantum Fluctuation Fields of curved space, we cope instead by giving chaos a pedigree, saying it was meant to be, as if Fate simply meant being led by the hand through a single possible life.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo Baggins

Most of us need only reflect on the way we met a partner to remind ourselves how co-incidental life can be, and that everything is a billion to one. We prefer the idea of being in the right place at the right time to try and bring some semblance of order and purpose into events, forgetting what personal responsibility is lost in things that are meant to be, how much expectation then has to be shouldered by the other.

Life’s collective chaos tends to express itself in acts of war. Though we abhor the idea of war so too do we go to battle on the slightest pretext and sometimes on whim and invention. The Gulf of Tomkin debacle, which precipitated the Vietnam war, pissed quite a few people off by never having occured. The Gulf war was joined on the strength of WMD’s which turned out to be a lie. Yemen lies in ruins because the Saudi king doesn’t like their elected President. His mate wants the job.

But its how these chaotic things are sparked that grabs my attention because they are so far flung from the hushed rooms of diplomatic discussion, the fine manners, the fine wine…

and even from the undertones of opportunism, or the cut and thrust of deliberate calculation..

No better event exists than the sublime Unlikelihood of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which started the Great War, to serve as an example of how the most absurd occurence can trigger global events.

There are in fact two versions of the story. The first, less interesting, is the testimony of a fellow conspiritor to the assassin Principe, a Serb Nationalist whose account makes a cunning ambush of the killing… after an initial failed attempt and having been received by the mayor of Sarajevo Fehim Cercic …

”Potiorek, the Austrian Commander, pleaded with Franz Ferdinand to leave the city, as it was seething with rebellion. The Archduke was persuaded to drive the shortest way out of the city and go quickly.

The road to the (Austrian Military) maneuvers was shaped like the letter V, making a sharp turn at the bridge over the River Nilgacka. Franz Ferdinand’s car could go fast enough until it reached this spot but here it was forced to slow down for the turn. Here Principe had taken his stand. As the car came abreast he stepped forward from the curb, drew his automatic pistol from his coat and fired two shots.”  Borijove Jevtic (a member of the Black Hand group who later claimed he had been involved in the assassination.)

The second story, from a number of other primary sources, rings a lot better. It was a shambles. Eight assassins, mostly pneumoniacs who were in the terminal stages of illness and once arrested would not survive long to enjoy their commuted executions, lined the main street of Sarajevo every hundred yards armed with grenades, hand guns and cyanide. You’d think they could manage to take down a  glittery waving target with a great feather hat in the back of a slow moving car with the top down?

But no. The first assassin bottled out. The second threw his grenade but missed, hitting the car behind instead and injuring two of Ferdinand’s men. The royals roared off and the rest of the assassins melted away into the crowd.

And that should have been the end of it, but Chance had only just come out to play and was about to deliver up something in the assassins favour even more unlikely than the golden opportunity they had just botched.

Ferdinand insisted in visiting the two men injured in the attack once the official business at the town hall was concluded.

”In order to avoid the city centre, General Oskar Potoriek decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However, Potiorek forgot to tell the driver, Franz Urban, about this decision. On the way to the hospital, Urban took a right turn into Franz Joseph Street….

where there just happens to be a cafe that sells cheap coffee… which was where Principe had gone to calm down and collect his nerves while he had a cup of Joe… His breathing had returned to normal, the crowds had dispersed, the police had gone, so he got up, paid and left…

In that moment the Archduke’s car swung round the corner..

One of the conspirators, Gavrilo Principe happened to be standing on the corner at the time. Oskar Potoriek immediately realised the driver had taken the wrong route and shouted “What is this? This is the wrong way! We’re supposed to take the Appel Quay!”.

The driver put his foot on the brake, and began to back up. In doing so he moved slowly past the waiting Gavrilo Principe. The assassin stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car. (http://spartacus-educational.com/FWWassassination.htm)

within a month Europe was plunged into the war to end all wars.

I personally feel rather intimidated that a cup of coffee could trigger such an event. Its the kind of thing that makes you want to move more slowly and be careful where you put stuff down just in case you start world war 3. Who knows what cataclysmic events might be set in motion by popping out for a pint of milk…

or riding your bike..

Fortunately, I also laugh in the face of danger. Brazen with courage, but careful as can be, I venture out every day – knowing full well the mayhem that can ensue from saying hello, the shrapnel that can fly from tipping your hat just so. Yet I manage to brave it all none the less.

Luckily the chaos that happily ensues from the teensiest thing is also what seems to generate creativity, steepen your learning curve, and bring the soul to fruition.  DNA research shows that the further from the Alduvi gorge humanity roamed, the more complex human DNA became. The challenges, the new skills that had to be learned, the eternal encounter with the unknown and having to adapt to it… all this fed and strengthened nomadic wo/man.

Our is not a survival of the fittest. In fact Darwin only used the phrase once, rather tentatively, in his whole Origin of Species. His emphasis was actually on the survival of those best able to adapt. His phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ has been given the best of all possible make overs and emphasised by the Establishment because it implies the right of might and power as proof of its own legitimacy, useful at a time (1859) when you are busy colonising the planet.

We need unforseen change like roses need muck which it is why it is a death knell to life’s adventure to wish it were all easier, something I have to remind myself of twenty times a day. Moreover, we are not just the passive recipients of what happens to us, some canvas on which life viciously paints itself. If freedom is simply freedom from, from oppression, tyranny, tragedy, we cannot be free because all this chaos is the raging stream in which we swim. It is home as well. So better we ask, given the chaos, what am I free for…?