The headline you will never see “is ‘The market was down 110 points, a random fluctuation in a very complex system.’” (Eric Schurenberg, former managing editor, Money magazine, as quoted in February 16, 2009, New York Times, Business section, p. B2.)
We humans so search for meaning where there is none, reading the tea leaves, attempting to divine patterns where only chance rules. It is an understandable desire to create a sense of control in our lives, to invoke meaning, to find purpose. However, when we invent tidy little worlds of cause and effect where none exist (see blog posts: “The Drunkard’s Walk” and “The Law of Small Numbers”) and then proceed to plan our lives around our fantasies, we lose, not gain, the control we desperately seek.
I have seen stories that read, “retail sales down because bad weather kept shoppers home, and/or destroyed shopping mood.” I’ve seen stories a bit later that read, “retail sales down because good weather kept shoppers outdoors.” The truth is that we don’t know the causes of many things if indeed they have causes beyond randomness. Sometimes the coin lands heads up, sometimes tails up; that’s just how it is. Accept it, deal with it. Focus on what you can impact, focus on the long run. Don’t waste your precious time and energy on the chattering gossip.
“So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness.”
— Sidney Poitier, American actor, first Black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor (“Lilies of the Field”). Most remembered films: “To Sir With Love,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “In the Heat of the Night.”
“Chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when he does not wish to sign his work.”
— Anatole France (1844-1924), French writer, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921.