Saturday, April 27, 2019

April 27: Every Point in the Universe, Coincidence, Rose

Zaphod and Trillian, in the Heart of Gold spaceship, are dealing with their two new passengers . . .

 "Listen," she said, "we picked up those couple of guys . . ."

"What couple of guys?"

"The couple of guys we picked up."

"Oh, yeah," said Zaphod, "those couple of guys."

"We picked them up in Sector ZZ, Plural Z Alpha."

"Yeah?" said Zaphod, and blinked.

Trillian said quietly.  "Does that mean anything to you?"

"Mmmm," said Zaphod, "ZZ, Plural Z. Alpha ZZ, Plural Z Alpha?"

"Well?" said Trillian.

"Er . . . what does the Z mean?" said Zaphod.

"Which one?"

"Any one."

One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn't be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn't understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid.  He was renowned for being amazingly clever and quite clearly was so--but not all the time, which obviously worried him hence the act.  He preferred people to be puzzled rather than contemptuous.  This above all appeared to Trillian to be genuinely stupid, but she could no longer be bothered to argue about it.

She sighed and punched up a star map on the visiscreen so she could make it simple for him, whatever his reasons for wanting it to be that way.

"There," she pointed, "right there."

"Hey . . . yeah!" said Zaphod.

"Well," she said.

"Well what?"

Parts of the inside of her head screamed at other parts of the inside of her head.  She said, very calmly, "It's the same sector you originally picked me up in."

He looked at her and then looked back at the screen.

"Hey, yeah," he said, "now that is wild.  We should have zapped straight into the middle of the Horsehead Nebula.  How did we come to be there?  I mean, that's nowhere."

She ignored this.

"Improbability Drive," she said patiently.  "You explained it to me yourself.  We pass through every point in the Universe, you know that."

I am not a believer in coincidence.  I don't think seemingly random extraordinary things occur without reason.  For example, several years ago, B. C. (that's Before Children), my wife and I were at Walt Disney World on vacation.  We were shopping in a place called Disney Village, which was a collection of stores and restaurants.  We ran into cousins from Wisconsin who were in the same store, and we had a little family reunion.  On that same vacation, a week or so before, my wife and I were at an attraction at one of the parks, and there was a child at the same attraction whom my wife had as a student when she was doing her student teaching.  Those kinds of things happened through that whole vacation.  I started to believe that we had fallen into some kind of weird wormhole in the universe.

Looking back at that vacation now, I have this feeling that all that was meant to be for some reason.  It was one of the last vacations when almost all of my family (siblings and parents) were together.  The Wisconsin cousins hadn't seen my parents in years.  We took a family picture with them, just to prove that it happened.

So, in my mind, there's no such thing as coincidence.  There's order in the universe.  Just because something is improbable doesn't mean that it's random.  I'm sure my science friends would argue with me on this point, but it would simply be a battle of beliefs or philosophies.  I'm a Christian, and I believe in a Higher Power.  A guiding force.  Everything has a reason.

Now, at this point in this rather long discussion of coincidence versus order, you're probably thinking, "What is his point?  What's he getting at?"

I do have a point.  Or maybe it's a question.  I spend a lot of time wondering why things happen in my life.  Recently, it's been the closure of the surgery center where I've worked for over 20 years, and all that change that has accompanied this event.  At this point, I don't understand the reason for this, aside from a healthcare system that is inherently broken and places more value on money over people.  I'm waiting for the dust to settle on that one so that I can see the larger picture.

The thing that is preoccupying my thoughts at the moment involves my sister, Rose, who has Down syndrome.  In the last few days, she has started having episodes that resemble seizures.  Five or six in a day.  She's fallen and injured herself.  Now, Rose is suffering from Alzheimer's.  It happens to a majority of people with Down syndrome when they get older.  My sister is 53 years old now.  She asks the same questions over and over.  Spends a good deal of her day running to the bathroom.  And she sleeps.  A lot.

What is happening with my sister is not unusual.  In fact, it's to be expected.  The episodes/seizures could be related to medications she's taking, or they could simply be a part of her progressing illness and aging.  She will be checked by doctors.  But I am truly questioning the reasons behind Rose's struggles.  My medical friends would probably say that there isn't really a metaphysical reason behind her condition.  It's physiological.  Changes in her brain due to age and her Down syndrome.  I understand that.  Really, I do.

Yet, I see meaningless suffering, and I try to make meaning out of it.  Since the onset of her dementia, Rose's personality has changed.  She's become argumentative and stubborn and obsessive.  Gone is the sister who spent most of her days writing long, discursive, handwritten letters to aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.  Gone is the sister who would jump on her three-wheeled bike and go for long rides around the neighborhood.  Gone is the sister that I remember.

And I'm left wondering why.  I don't know if I'll ever answer that question satisfactorily.  It's sort of an ageless question:  why does God allow suffering in the world?  The answer to that question, I guess, would be that God doesn't allow suffering.  The suffering is part of living in a broken world.  What God does is give us the strength and wisdom and love to deal with the brokenness.

My sister, Rose, has Down syndrome.  My sister, Rose, has Alzheimer's.  My sister, Rose, is having seizures.  Nothing in that is random coincidence.  Perhaps I just need to stop asking "Why?"  I'll probably never understand the answer to that question.

Perhaps the question Saint Marty needs to ask is "How do I deal with this with compassion and love?"

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