The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awarenes comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Translated by Coleman Barks
“Random” is a college word. I had this conversation while in college, in which it was determined that college students use certain words that other demographics of the human population do not. I can no longer recall any more of said words, but I can surmise that the list also includes “kegstand” and “Jagermeister” and, much to my chagrin “existential”. And all of this makes sense. College students, perhaps more so than any other group, are all, for the most part, trying to impress each other. There are two major avenues students take to do so. Either by trying to impress with their drinking ability or by trying to impress with their ability to sound smart.
Without getting into a debate about chaos and determinism, I think I am comfortable saying that many features of my life do, in fact, at least appear random. The pile of books next to my bed are stacked in random order. The number the phone company assigned to me was chosen randomly. The cars on the road with me are not in a pre-established order. Many of the conversations I have in a typical day have no ulterior purpose and topics can seem quite random. When I learn a new word, I will often find it in print shortly after learning its meaning, and because I am not specifically seeking out this word, the occurrence seems random.
But is anything really random? The books next to my bed aren’t stacked in a random order, they are stacked in the reverse order that I last read them. It is possible that I was actually assigned my phone number in order of purchase, in other words, I was likely the 5309th customer. Everyone on the road with me at any given time is driving with some destination in mind, it only seems random to me. Most conversations I engage are about something that interests me or my interlocutor. I have never, for example, had a conversation about the mating habits of baboons, but I bet a zookeeper or zoologist has. And perhaps I always see the word I just learned, I just skipped it over it before.