This has been a strange week, and I’m grateful it’s over.
It started out well enough with dreams of winning the Powerball jackpot and becoming at least a millionaire.
It ended with death reminding me that it is never too far from The House on the Hill.
Needless to say, this visit to the Think Tank is going to be serious, somber, and a little morbid, so hang on tight.
Before things get too dark and foreboding, let me direct your attention to the new graphic leading off this blog post. What do you think? I’ve been having fun with Canva all week, and I hope it’s been adding a little character to the blog.
Are you still ready to join me in the Think Tank even though I’m being all grim?
This week’s topic: Have you ever considered how much life is like the lottery, and that it ultimately leads to the same payoff for all of us?
It was going to call this post The Death Lottery, but I thought it would be too morbid. Then I realized that life is like a lottery, and we’re all just waiting around to see how death decides to come for us.
Think about it. You were born in a certain place to certain people who had a certain income.
You had no say in any of that, but those facts had an enormous impact on how your life unfolded.
Because of where you were born, the pool of people you could befriend was set. Your first crush and first love were also limited by your location. The education you received was determined by the schools in your immediate area, the teachers employed by them, and the people hired to set the curriculum.
You inherited a genetic code from your parents, and they also molded you to be a certain way long before you had any say in the type of person you wanted to be. Your parents might have given you siblings, who were also major influences on you.
If your parents were wealthy, you lived a much different life from the Modern Philosopher who grew up with poor parents.
You see where I’m going with this, right? Before you were aware of who you were and what was going on around you, a large portion of who you would one day become was basically predetermined for you.
I met my ex-wife at NYU. How different would my life be if I’d gone to Syracuse, which was my first choice? Or if she had picked a different residence hall and we’d never met?
What if my Mom hadn’t died when I was 3? What if my Dad had married someone other than my Stepmother? What if I’d been born to an affluent couple in the Pacific Northwest? What if my childhood best friend had grown up to be a movie star?
It all just seems so random. We’re told that our lives are what we make them, but isn’t that just a whole lot of hogwash?
We can’t be anyone we want to be. We need an education, connections, talent, luck, and countless other variables to work in our favor. Would the offices of the world be populated by unhappy employees if everyone got to be what they wanted?
I think not.
Death is everywhere. We all know that cancer, the disease that claimed my Dad, also took David Bowie and Alan Rickman this week.
Yesterday, cancer came for someone who was in the Boy Scouts with me. We also worked together at the restaurant where I put myself through NYU.
When someone I grew up with dies of that dreaded disease, it makes me realize how fragile life is. We can go at any time. Without much or any warning. Whether or not we’re ready or have led a full life.
No matter where you grew up, who your parents were, or how much they earned, your number eventually comes up in The Death Lottery.
Then I came over a rise, and I saw a parking lot of taillights accented by the flashing lights of emergency vehicles.
I sped down the hill, still at 65 mph, heading straight for the car that was at a dead stop not too far down the road.
I stomped on the brakes with all my might. 65 became 60 then 55. The cars up ahead remained at a dead stop and were a hell of a lot closer now.
50…trying to will the brakes to stop my vehicle.
45…impact with the last car in line only seconds away.
Sweat pouring from my brow, 40…looking if it made sense to swerve into the next lane.
There’s a car right next to me…35…I’m going to hit the car ahead of me.
What if I never get to talk to Melissa again and tell her that I love her?
The car shimmying under me because the road is actually slippery from the previous day’s snowstorm….is the speedometer even moving?
I miraculously managed to stop my car about six inches from a collision.
As I’d left the office, Melissa had texted me to promise that I’d be careful driving home. I’d annoyingly replied that it wasn’t snowing, so she was silly to be worried.
Death was too close to The House on the Hill last night. I prayed for my old friend who was taken from this world far too soon. I thought about how I’d nearly gotten into an accident. I obsessed over how death could come at any time.
Don’t you agree that life is like a lottery?