Pan Galactic Improbability
Twenty years ago I lived and worked in New York City. I was a Fireman.
Today I live in a Bangkok townhouse with six Siamese ladies who are eager to focus on keeping me healthy and happy. Now that’s an outcome one never would have predicted. This story is about the unpredictable twists and turns, ups and downs, or stated more technically, spontaneous bifurcations of order arising from a chaotic universe.
More simply stated: shit happens.
To help me explain the nutty realm of infinite improbabilities, I am going to talk about one of my favorite stories ever.
Long before The Metaverse or the Matrix, Douglas Adams wrote a farcical tale about how a small blue planet orbiting an insignificant yellow star in a not very interesting part of the Milky Way was nothing more than a model, a kind of longitudinal computer study, constructed by mice — pan dimensional beings — to test out complicated theories and discover the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.
The name of the tale is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Similar to newer tales and movies such as “The Matrix” or the “The Metaverse” a term first appearing in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel “Snow Crash” the underlying principles these stories share is that the human race is but an insignificant little part of a larger computer landscape that controls humanity’s outcome.
The good part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is that it offers readers practical answers to dealing with the uncertainty inherent in such a complex state of being. For instance it gives you the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. The answer is forty-two.
Ah, yeah, you gotta read the book.
The tome does provide readers with excellent practical advice when hitchhiking through the Galaxy.
1 Bring a towel
2 Don’t panic
The main character in Hitchhikers Guide is Arthur Dent, a nervous English dude who thinks his main problem is trying to keep his house from being bulldozed to make room for a bypass. Arthur’s friend and drinking buddy, Ford Prefect, is actually an intergalactic, traveling writer and contributor to the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.
A yoga teacher that used to work for me was actually a writer for Lonely Planet and a CIA spook, a true story that fits in with this tale of crazy unknown probabilities and how they effect us, but I’m digressing.
Ford Prefect gets himself and Arthur off Earth moments before Vargon intergalactic space engineers destroy the planet to make way for an intergalactic bypass. Ford Prefect sneaks himself and Arthur onto a Vargon ship by way of some super space beam device. Apparently Ford Prefect had more than a towel in his bag.
The story is a laugh a minute joke riding a space ship powered by an infinite improbability engine that makes one think WTF! Do we really know what real is?
And what does all this have to do with me sitting here writing a script for a YouTube video?
For the last three years of my twenty year employment in the New York City Fire Department I fretted daily about what I should do with my life. I was a lot like Arthur Dent. Arthur was a fretter. Should I retire at the twenty year threshold and collect a nice pension? Or should I stay in the Fire Department?
I did like being a Fireman. A Fireman’s job is really chaos management, sort of related to improbability.
I wound up retiring as soon as possible on September 10, 2001. The next day my replacement got killed at the World Trade Center. There is present a whole lot of improbability inside of that story for sure.
But wait, there’s more.
I recently noticed a show on Netflix about United Flight 93, a 911 story. I already know all about the stuff that happened back then. I don’t want to live in the past. I was reluctant to watch the Netflix show. But I did watch it.
On the morning of September 11th, I was on an airplane. My flight narrowly missed a mid air collision with one of the hijacked flights buzzing around the Northeast United States that morning. I always presumed it was flight 93. Watching the Netflix show I discovered it was not Flight 93. It was the plane that hit the Pentagon that we narrowly avoided.
I wrote a story about my retirement on 911, along with the near miss that morning on my plane ride. A commenter dismissed the story about my two life saving occurrences as too improbable to be true. I understood his skepticism, buy yeah, he’s a jerk. This was my life. Perhaps my flight was also powered by an infinite improbability engine.
As alluded to earlier when I mentioned my friend and employee, yoga teaching, Lonely Planet contributor, Russian/English speaking CIA consultant, Wendy, I wound up in the yoga business. Such a likelihood would have been considered highly improbable in my younger days. However, just prior to retiring from the fire department, I met a yoga teacher when her laundry caught fire. She made me do yoga. I liked it.
So there I was, enjoying running a small yoga business in Western Massachusetts: two yoga studios with nineteen employees. It was an enterprise that was profitable and fun.
Then in 2008 the world economy nearly collapsed. It all had something to do with stuff like collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and derivatives, highly complex finance shit. It was so complex, even the people making billions of dollars with them were clueless about their value. Here again, a highly improbable thing happened. The housing market collapsed. This was not good for the yoga business
I wound up in Singapore teaching in a tricked out, very expensive yoga spa. I went from a disappointed entrepreneur to an internationally known yoga stud making more money than when I was busting my ass running a business back in the states.
I liked Singapore, a lot. But after four years, the fancy Singapore yoga spa went out of business. Without a work permit, I could not stay in Singapore.
Ah, yeah, don’t panic. By now I had read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
The Thais were happy to have me. After five years of living and teaching yoga in Bangkok, Singapore now seemed boring.
Once again, yet another pan-galactic, improbable bifurcation emerged from an infinite probability engine. Or maybe it was mad Chinese scientists screwing around with bats and viruses. Whatever!
In March of 2020 United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got my attention. Secretary Pompeo has an uncanny resemblance to Vargon space engineers. I wonder if he recites bad poetry. Pompeo was saying things are going to shit (I’m paraphrasing). US citizens should get their asses back to the states.
My small yoga studio was in my Bangkok home. I had a Thai partner too, Bua Khao. My deal with Bua Khao allowed her and her family to live in the four story townhouse where my yoga studio was on the second floor. Bua Khao’s children grew up under my roof. If I left to go back to the states, things would have been bad for Bua Khao and her family. I figured no, I’m not going to panic and hell, I have tons of towels, I own a yoga studio.
Improbable as it would have appeared twenty years ago when my choice to retire from the FDNY improbably saved my life, here I am surrounded by Sassy Siamese lasses motivated to keep me healthy and happy.