Course Correction

OK, the latest entry from the Gospel of Lost: 😉
(This is gonna ramble a bit before getting to the point, so be patient.)

So about a year ago, a friend of mine came into town whom I had not seen in 16 years. And the 1992 encounter was only for a few minutes; I’d not spent much time with her since my ninth grade of high school.

And I had sort of a weird realization. When I go back to Indianola, where I lived seven years ago, people are surprised when they see me — I’ve lost a good bit of weight, etc. since living there. There’s very much a “wow, you’ve changed” factor there. But for Beth, not so much — I probably seem more like an adult version of the kid she knew today that I would have when I was in Indianola. I imagine I seem more like the 13 year old me now at 33 that I would have at 23.

OK, hold that thought for a moment, while I move on to a completely unrelated anecdote:

A friend of mine went last night to the church where her dad pastors for a community service. Her dad had been the pastor of another church in the community like 15 years earlier, and had been voted out by the congregation. He, and they, went on with their lives, until a while back when an opportunity brought him back to a different church in the same community. Several of the people who had been members of the old church are now members of the new church. And, last night, for the open community service, there were even more of his former flock in the congregation.

OK, hold that one, and we’re going to get back to Lost, as promised in the very beginning:

I’ve been intrigued recently by the similarities between what’s been going on on Lost recently and the book I blogged about recently, God of the Possible. For those that don’t watch Lost, the current season has included a time-travel story. The main characters are now back in time on the island, and there’s been a discussion about whether or not they can change things. The prevailing philosphy has been “Whatever happened, happened” — if they knew when they were in the present that something had occured in the past, then while they’re in the past, they can do nothing to prevent that from happening.

Last week, however, introduced the possibility that it might be possible to make decisions that would change things.

But it sort of echoed a point in the book … Do you really have free will if the future is already decided? If the future can’t be changed, then the characters in the past really don’t have free will to make choices that affect their world.

OK, you can take that thought, and put it aside, but it isn’t really directly relevant to where I’m going with this, but just sets up the foundation for the discussion we were having about Lost and theology.

There’s a fan theory going around that the island is self-correcting, that it has means for making sure nothing happens that changes the timeline.

And that idea of “course correction” brings us back to the community church service. My friend basically asked, what if God does the same thing. She noticed while sitting in the service that it really wasn’t that different than it might have been if her dad hadn’t been voted out of the church. We talked about the idea that maybe that was where he was supposed to be after all, and God used a “course correction” after he was voted out to put him back where he was needed.

While it’s a little bit different, it reminded me of the anecdote that I started this post with. Where I am now seems more like where the road seemed like it might be going when I was in school. In reality, it deviated greatly from that, but then eventually came back closer to where it started. Another course correction, perhaps?

Or, to pick a more concrete example, I had the opportunity to move back to Huntsville ten years ago, but decided not to. That decision led to some of the more difficult times in my life. But another three years after that, another opportunity came to move back, and this time I was in less of a position to decline. There’s no telling how my life would have been different if I had taken the first opportunity; whether the hardships that resulted from not doing so could have been avoided. But did I end up in basically the same place either way in terms of the relevant factors? And what details would have been different if I’d taken the other road? If the course correction hadn’t been necessary?

Have you had any experiences in your life where that’s happened? An opportunity came along that was passed up, but then later events put you in basically the same place? Or has there been a time when the actions of others have affected you negatively, but things worked out to put you back where you would have been if they hadn’t?

One Response

  1. This is really about the new Star Trek movies isn’t it?

    Seriously, I’ve wondered about this myself in recent years. As you know, I don’t look at it from a religious or theological standpoint, but the whole “what if” idea is something that has always run through my mind. It’s a very powerful notion and one that I find at times can lead me to indecision and inaction if I let it run wild.

    But, whether or not you allow for intervention/supervision/plan of a divine being, you have to look at some events in a life and think that they must be inevitable. I used to not think that, but events in my own life in the past few years have me realizing that there are too many influences outside of my control that have led me to certain places no matter what decisions I made.

    There are two examples, both of which were major game changers in my life: my leaving journalism and returning to my hometown and my divorce.

    My decision to leave the newspaper business was brought about by two converging events. The first was my general unhappiness with the direction the industry was going. My days in the newspaper business were limited no matter what happened. Another job at another newspaper wouldn’t have changed that. Only delayed it. This was caused by trends in business, trends in readership, economic forces, all those things you are familiar with.

    True, I might have left the business for a different job, but I think even if that had been the case, I still would have ended up here doing what I’m doing now. The library was going to be there. The need was going to be there. And my connections to the job were already going to be there. Again, going to another job, I think, would have only delayed that move.

    As for the divorce, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking “if only I’d done this” or “if only I’d been willing to do something else.” I finally came to the realization that there was nothing I could have done that would have changed the outcome. Delayed it? Possibly. Complicated it? Definitely. But the emotional and psychological damage that ultimately were the root cause of the conflicts that led to the divorce were done long, long ago. Out of my control. Before we ever met. Looking back, I can see that. It’s like in Wargames. No matter what scenario you come up with, there’s no way you can win at Global Thermonuclear War.

    I tend not to believe in fate or destiny as in the “big picture” concepts that our lives will proceed to a preset outcome no matter what. And I do believe, more or less, in the concept of karma, the real concept, not the popular notion that is more closely related to fate or luck. That is that we control our actions and that similar actions will have similar results. I go beyond the basic concept to think that we control only our actions, which intertwine with the actions of everyone around us and, over time, can lead to an inevitable result. In other words, any action we take does not occur in a vacuum. The outcome of the decisions we make are not affected by others, but the decisions themselves are.

    But these are 3 a.m. idle ramblings that are quickly becoming 4 a.m. idle ramblings.

    Who knows. Maybe Forrest Gump was right. Maybe Starbuck was right. Either way, it’s a philosophical debate I’d pay good money to see.

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