I had the good fortune to reacquaint myself this week with a friend from 40 years ago. After explaining my research into the fragile contingencies underlying life changing events, she offered a terrific example, and, additionally brought a new term into my thinking on these matters.
She told me about meeting a future employer at a gas station, on the occasion when both had stopped at the same station, you know, for gas! The thing is: a stranger approaches her, recognizes her because she had taken note of her reputation in some public notice or the like, and strikes up a conversation.
What followed, eventually, was a job offer. And, what followed from taking the job were all sorts of other events that, in concrete respects, stand on the foundation of her changing jobs.
What would have happened had the soon-to-be new employer and employee not stopped in the gas station at the same moment? No one can say, but it’s as if such a speculation is about an alternative universe, rather than the universe in which this life altering and happenstance event took place.
My friend called the event, random. “Random” hadn’t occurred to me as a qualifier. It’s a good term because it strips away something of the various evaluative adjectives which follow from a random event turning out to be positive or negative.