Live for the Surprise

In Director Paul Feig’s “Last Christmas”, Emilia Clarke’s Kate—in her elf green with Christmas lights—has the epiphany, “We are so lucky to be alive.” Amen, Kate.

Ideally, that lands as authentic for most of us. Hopefully. My past has shown me what it’s like to not “feel lucky.” By “lucky,” I believe Paul meant that life is a gift to be lived. Being alive is a profound gift.

Having worked through depression with my therapist Lance, I certainly get what it’s like to feel: Unlucky to be alive. Sadly, a friend of mine succumbed to his ‘unlucky’, failing to see that his suffering was finite in nature, like things are. So very sad. Choosing Shakespeare’s “undiscovered country” over life is tragically sad. Rest in peace, my dear Friend.

That being said, the ‘unlucky life’ might be that personally perceived reality, the predictable future. In the predictable future, there’s more of the “same old”, more suffering, and the inevitable heartbreak. Yet, the future is unknown. Well, that’s because it’s the future. No, the future hasn’t happened, yet. That’s what makes it the future.

Yet, when you’re suffering, when you’re ‘unlucky’, that becomes the “already always future”. But the future has yet to reveal itself, yet to unfold. It’s easy to get stuck in our fated suffering. I would know. I’ve been down that path.

I had to remember that there is no fate, no predetermined outcome. Who I choose to be and what I choose to do influences and in a sense frames my future. Rather, the choices I make influence the future. Again, that being all said: Choose to be surprised. Live for the surprise. Just saying.

I’ve studied Probability and Information Theory for my Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. In Probability Theory: Events have a probability of occurrence. For example, the probability of flipping heads on a quarter is 50% or 0.5. The probability of the sun rising tomorrow is nearly 100% or 1.0.

Information Theory tells us: The value of or the amount of information revealed when these events occur, in terms of units called bits. If you flip heads on the quarter, you have 0.7 bits of information. If the sun rises tomorrow, you have nearly zero bits of information.

Experientially, that should make a lot of sense. When the sun rises tomorrow, there’s really no new information or great value to be had, because it was likely always going to happen. Unless in the remote chance that the Sun went nova or became a Black Hole. Then we’d have a whole other issue.

In the bigger picture, when the very likely happens, we don’t experience a great deal of value. But what about the very remote, the very unlikely occurring?

Consider the unlikely events of falling madly and deeply in love or becoming a Father and raising your son to be a good man. Yeah, both might have a very low likelihood of happening. Yet, the true value is in the surprise. Isn’t that worth living for? Just asking.

This may sound absurd coming from the Engineer, who studied probability and chance of occurrence for years, using it to design complex Satellite Systems, but I say: Live for the surprise, live for the unlikely. It’s worth the risk.

One of the Buddhist tenants is “To live is to know suffering.” I get that. We’ve all experienced suffering. That too, can become its own Great Comparison Game. Yet, all of our suffering is valid. Your suffering is real for you. Period.

I’ve discovered that our suffering is finite in nature, it doesn’t go on forever, by definition. Because our time on Planet Earth doesn’t go one forever, for one thing. So, what are you gonna do?

Well, do what Sensei Dan said, “Make it work.” Find what you love and grind it out. For me that’s Aikido, working with bright young people, and writing stuff that’s meaningful to me. We endure for the surprise. We endure for what we love. We endure for the unlikely. For me that might be finding my true love. Perhaps.

But, we’ll never discover the surprise in life, unless “We just train.” I’ve discovered through my own trials and tribulations that it get easier to grind it out. Because, even when I don’t achieve or get some desired result, I know that I gave it my best shot. I’m good with that.

If I failed, it’s not because I was unlucky. Rather, I failed daring to invent my greater-than version. I definitely will always be good with that. So dare to be surprised. Live for the surprise that is life. Amen. Amen.

Last Christmas – Official Trailer


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