Life is full of surprises, and you’re one of them

Life is full of surprises, and you are one of them. I’ll begin by offering two reasons YOU are so surprising. The first deals with your relationship with the universe. Although the size of the universe can be measured, its vastness is unfathomable. Nevertheless, I’ll try to paint a picture of its size. Imagine gathering all the beaches on earth and placing them in one pile. The pile represents the universe and a single grain of sand, the sun. What about our planet, earth? To represent it, you would have to use a speck that is 1/300,000th the mass of a single grain of sand. Can you see why finding a needle in a haystack is infinitely easier than finding planet earth in the universe? But wait a minute, if our planet is 1/300,000th the mass of a grain of sand, what size would you be? The answer is: so small and insignificant that, as far as the universe is concerned, YOU DON’T EXIST! Yet, you do! That’s what’s so surprising.

Ready to move on to surprise number two? What are the odds of you being born? Before answering that, let me paint another picture. Pretend that somewhere in Canada, The U.S., Mexico, Central America, or South America there is the perfect mate for you. And pretend that every single member of the same sex as you, in all the above regions, regardless of their age, are striving to marry the same person you want as a mate! Since the total population for the above areas is about 765,873,947 and about half are the same sex as you, you would have to compete with roughly 382,936,973 people for the same mate! Imagine how incredibly lucky you would have to be to marry the person of your dreams. Getting back to the question I posed earlier, what are the odds of you being born? Well, very similar to my illustration of millions of people competing for the same mate. You see, before YOU were conceived, there were between 300 and 400 MILLION sperm (spermatozoa) competing to fertilize one egg (ovum)! Depending on which sperm fertilized the egg, a completely different person would have been created. So, the odds of YOU being born are one in three or four hundred million! Considering the odds, I find our existence quite surprising.

Now you know what I mean when I say that life is full of surprises and you are one of them. Someone who agreed with this assertion was the English biologist, Lewis Thomas (1913 – 1993), who wrote, “Statistically, the probability of any of us being here is so small that you’d think the mere fact of existing would keep us all in contented dazzlement of surprise.” Apparently, George Burns’ great love, Gracie Allen (1906 – 1964), also agreed, for she said, “When I was born I was so surprised that I didn’t talk for a year and a half.”

The world we live in consists of order and disorder. The laws of nature are evidence of order. The many laws are so dependable that we often forget about the chaos in our midst. Yet, uncertainty, unpredictability, randomness, the unanticipated and the unexpected are equally enmeshed in our lives. Unfortunately, the words we use to describe chaos evoke negative images such as insecurity and instability. However, if we refer to chaos as SURPRISE, we are more likely to discover its beauty. After all, we love surprises, such as the surprise endings of stories and jokes. Why, at my last birthday, close friends surprised me by the absence of a party. Wow, what a surprise that was!

A hike in the woods is the perfect place to experience life’s dance of order and disorder. Maple leaves turn crimson and fall from trees as ordained by the laws of nature. But what shade of crimson? And in which direction will they fall? Like the forest, our life will have its share of order and chaos. Chaos is to order what energy is to matter, they are just different expressions of a single principle. When we understand life, we expect the unexpected.

You’re resting under a tree when suddenly, plop, a caterpillar drops on your hand. What do you do? Brush it aside? A child would never do so. Instead he or she would take a close look, trying to decipher the wonder and mystery of life. We need to regain that spirit of adventure. When disaster strikes, why do we moan about our pain instead of grabbing hold of life. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.”

No, it is not misfortune, insecurity, and the unexpected that need to be confronted, but SURPRISE that needs to be embraced, for it is a doorway that leads to a better you. Here’s how Robert D. Ballard expressed the same idea, “Everyone is an explorer. How could you possibly live your life looking at a door and not open it?”

SURPRISE is life tickling us. It is a source of joy and delight. A life without surprise, is a life of boredom. We don’t have to wait for surprise to appear. We can add excitement and pleasure to life by creating our own surprises. Opportunities abound. Interested in another position, but afraid that if you applied you would be turned down? Apply anyway. For if you do, you will experience surprise. What kind of surprise? They may hire you! Wow, that would be a nice surprise. If they don’t, you will be surprised by the courage you displayed and delighted by your newfound strength. Look for areas in which you can improve and surprise yourself by creating a better you.

Share the pleasure of surprise with others. Surprise your spouse, family members and friends. Surprise your boss by showing up on time! What exotic dishes haven’t you tried? Surprise yourself and friends by trying new types of food. Mmmm, delicious! Do you have some favorite hangouts? A pub, bar, coffee shop, or restaurant? Why not explore a new neighborhood? Surprise yourself with a different mood, crowd, and atmosphere. What about your tastes in music and the arts? Isn’t it true that if you tried something different you may be delightfully surprised? The same is true with books, as we venture into new fields, surprising new worlds open. So, let’s welcome the uncertainty of life by using surprise to uncover new opportunities, recover the wonder of our youth, and discover the joy of life.