Coincidence and Meaning
December 17, 2020
Backyard Photos 2020
December 31, 2020

Endings are Hard

Illustration from John Lydgate's Siege of Troy, mid-15th century.

Endings are hard because an ending, even that of a book, a work, or a year, doesn’t mean that everything stops. An ending is usually the beginning of something else. This is inherently both good and bad.

The bad news is that just because something has ended, doesn’t mean that whatever that thing was, simply disappears. Likely it will persist but in a different way. When I type THE END, which I plan on doing shortly to the sequel to Eye of the Moon, the words don’t really end the book, far from it. The process of editing and preparing it for publication begins, and that process requires an additional two times the amount of effort expended in simply writing it.

The good news—and it really is good news—is that the world, and life upon it, will always continue, in spite of various supposed “endings”.

Perhaps the one thing that makes living through interesting times exciting, and something to look forward to, is the possibility of surprise.

Surprises are by definition surprising.

The goddess Fortuna is usually depicted at a wheel with one foot on the bottom part. When she turns it by swinging her foot, those on top get an uneasy feeling as they sink, while those on the bottom find that their affairs take a turn for the better.

Have you ever noticed that those who are overly controlling don’t like surprises? Is it any wonder?

Surprise is the one thing that life, and perhaps this universe, has in its pocket that’s guaranteed to get one out of a funk.

It’s like Christmas and birthdays. Yes, the socks were just fine, but what is this thing that Uncle Bob sent? It looks like a watch only more complicated. I wonder what will happen if I push this button?

Go ahead… Surprise! And a whole new story begins.

Life in this universe tends toward complexity rather than simplicity. Energy seems to enjoy being part of complicated structures because the bonds between the many different elements hold energy in a way that is more stable. Physicists can describe this in mathematical terms but that in essence is what happens. One of the unlooked-for consequences of this tendency is surprise. New combinations make new things, and the attributes of those new things are often unpredictable. There is even a term for such phenomena: emergent properties. In my philosophical way I have always wondered about the connections between surprise, randomness, and probability. It is one avenue I would like to explore in the future.

Did you ever expect to be alive? Even the fact that you live is surprising. The world is always full of wonder for that reason. Really, surprise is something to look forward to.

So, as we end this year and start another, know that what happened last year will likely continue into the next, but don’t let that make you feel low. Life will continue. It does that. And remember, just when you least expect it, and right when everybody least expects it… SURPRISE!

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