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George Baxter: I Don't Like It! (19th century)

We parse our world with probabilities. We ask, "What was the likelihood?" without considering whether we're dealing with a situation where probability might rule, for its domain does not seem as universal or infinite on close investigation as it initially might. Not every event falls beneath the governance of the law of large numbers. Many carry an essentially zero likelihood of ever occurring, yet they still somehow manage to manifest. While doubtless only partially purposeful, our development probably also doesn't qualify as random, either. The likelihood of me becoming who I am today was zero when I was born, but then nobody could foresee very much of anything that would be coming, so one might wonder what sort of fiction anyone could have been predicting.

The unlikely seems commonplace.
Just last night, The Muse ended up seated at a banquet next to a guy who was the nephew of her childhood bus driver. He had visited the same small town she grew up just outside of twelve hundred miles from where they ended up sitting next to each other. They both exclaimed, "What were the odds?" I contend that the chances were about 100%, but I calculated those odds using Prapability rather than probability because, again, we couldn't rely upon any law of large numbers governing iteration to calculate an answer. We run into similar impossibilities all the time. If probability ruled these situations, chance suggests that none of us would ever experience anything like this, yet we each carry stories of these supposedly chance encounters. Many of them. Probability predicts this could never happen to us, yet it happens.

We are each probably equally unlikely. What's the product or the sum of two unlikelies? It would seem to be an even more unlikely. Iteration seems to sum unlikelies into impossibles, yet they continue to occur. The more these two shadow quantities interact, the less likely they produce a discrete result, yet a discrete result always occurs. Maybe a law of infinitesimal numbers rules some interactions. The most diminutive gods might oversee these outcomes. They position the roommate of a second cousin to sit in the adjacent seat on a flight you're both taking thousands of miles from where either of you usually travel. The likelihood of this convergence would be incalculable, yet it happened!

There's a one hundred percent chance that I will be whoever I am at any given moment. As improbable as every future second seemed as an infant, I managed to survive so far. Where I am now was not precisely randomly determined. The fact that nobody could foresee who I would become didn't seem to inhibit me from manifesting. However, probability might have predicted how unlikely my reality might become, essentially impossible given all that nobody could have known. My story seems most like fiction, requiring a steadfast imagination to follow the plot's twisty turns. I must not be who I was destined to become because destiny would require prior knowledge or a clever algorithm capable of predicting something.

Like this story, we are the product of many unlikelies, yet here we stand!

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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