Think back over your life. If you are like most people your life will have been shaped by a relatively small number of key events. A typical example might be a chance meeting with someone who becomes your partner (for better or worse) for a decade or more. Maybe a chance conversation set you off on a career that had previously not been considered. Or an illness intervened at a crucial time during your education.
Lives are shaped in this way – by seemingly random events that could not have been foreseen. And for most people the number of such events is very small – probably less than ten. Out of the thousands of chance encounters and unexpected events, just a handful end up shaping a life.
This is telling us something very important – we cannot predict, and have almost no control over the way our lives take shape. It is fairly common for people to strive in one direction and through some chance circumstance to end up moving in a different direction. People emigrate, find partners, change careers and have their views on life turned upside down by seemingly accidental encounters and events. The moral of the story is that we have no control over the big events that shape our lives, and so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride. We are not the driver, we are a passenger in our own journey through life. We do not live, we are lived.
Most of the time we are like a hamster on a hamster wheel. Each day tends to resemble the previous one, and nothing much changes. This kind of stasis can persist for decades, and often does. But sooner or later something happens to change things – birth and death being the most notable examples.
So if our life could be plotted out it would look like a zig zag – lines of various lengths joined together with all manner of angles where the lines join depending on the severity of the change that has occurred. The lines represent some kind of stasis, and the angle between lines the degree of change. Another way of looking at it would be long periods of tedium interspersed with a few periods of dramatic change.
If this is accepted we can make a wholesale change in our attitude to life. Since there is no telling when and how these major shifts will occur we can stop banging our heads against the wall and relax into the tedium that will constitute most of our lives, knowing that the big changes will creep upon us unseen.
It is certainly not uncommon to find people making frantic efforts to change their circumstances and even risking what they currently have to bring about some change. Life would become much more pleasant if they could accept their life for what it is and know that major changes for the better or worse will come along anyway without any effort on their part. One thing is for sure, there is the ultimate black swan waiting for all of us at the end of our lives.