Magical Mystery Ooh-er

This will be an unscheduled detour from the over-arching theme of recent posts, but relevant enough on the sub-theme of human narrative to feature now. You see, poor readers, although we may never be able to throw off this feature of our nature, all I can hope to do is offer a few tools to at least see it for what it is. Forgive me, as I cannot be as abstract as I like to be, for this comes courtesy of a contemporary event.

I understand there are things such as lotteries. I have no personal experience as I prefer to live without hope and its attendant disappointments. I also understand that some arbitrary separate groups of people have won a lottery within an arbitrary period of time within an arbitrary geographical expanse. Initially I did not believe this to be newsworthy, until I realised the true story must have been an indictment against the educational system.

I would have said a person winning a lottery has a specific chance. Ceteris paribus (which is Latin for ‘I’m a pretentious idiot who doesn’t want to just say “all other things being equal”’) I would say another person winning the same lottery later on would carry the same chance. Why? Because I wouldn’t have anticipated some process or phenomenon whereby the former affected the latter. Excuse yet more technical terminology, but we call this ‘independence’.

And yet the stories begin. There must be some reason for this. It is safely assumed that this reason, this phenomenon, perhaps even this agency-bearing action, pays due attention to the geography of the arbitrary, changeable and temporary Shire county. Had the second winning ticket been bought across the county line, well, no story there, we’re not stupid. But within the fictitious, arbitrary borders of one county, that’s different. Which is not to say there are no cross-county effects. It was pondered if such a dense and meaningful concentration of success meant not only a reduced likelihood of another win over a short, but arbitrary, amount of time in the area, but had also reduced the likelihood of wins in other areas. Some sort of quota, presumably.

Now I know the workings of hope. I have not abandoned it for no reason. People want to imagine the benefits of such a win, they like to talk about possibilities and dreams, and if pushed would likely say it was a harmless bit of fun. However this ‘fun’, lasting perhaps all of a few minutes, has postulated, yet not even begun to flesh out, an alternative to the indifferent universe we all know. Where independent events nevertheless have causal links which coincidentally fit in beautifully with our tawdry stories. Where something approaching agency either introduces probability spikes, or seeks to redress them where they appear. Where there is a quota of fortune, whatever that could possibly mean.

But it is all a bit of fun. Safe enough for a species with a proven track record of robust scrutiny over under-explained theories and events, with a relentless need to question everything about apparent mysteries, and who never, ever, end up excluding, and harming, those who differ. Oh dear. Another conclusion under-determined. One day the threads will mesh, poor, poor readers.

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