09 September 2011


There are serious warnings about a potential terrorist attack as we approach the anniversary of 9/11, which resonates strongly here in New York. When, where, or how is unknown, but clearly a high degree of alertness is warranted. Hopefully the perpetrators will be apprehended and stopped before they can strike, as has happened many times before. But as Margaret Thatcher once said, we have to be right every time; the terrorists only have to be right once. That said, where you are when something bad happens is purely a matter of luck in being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Some people move, or think about moving to get away from everything. In these parts no place is farther away from it all than upstate New York or Vermont. Yet these very places are still struggling with floods caused by excessive rainfall, with all the attendant inconveniences like lack of power and ruined possessions. Who would ever have thought that a hurricane could impact Vermont, or that upstate could be seriously flooded? If you aren’t safe from perils there it’s hard to think of anywhere you can be. In Texas the opposite conditions prevail, with drought and wildfires burning out of control. The point is that disaster can strike anywhere, and the extent you are affected or threatened is purely chance- of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Why does a hurricane land in one place and not another? Why is one area impacted while another remains undisturbed? There is just no way to know. Of course there are places where such events are more likely and building and rebuilding in their wake makes no sense, but as to what can happen unexpectedly at any given moment we are largely clueless.

But the same is true of good things, like winning the lottery, because, as they say, “hey, you never know.” If there’s any solace in all of this it is that while you’re unlikely to win the lottery, you’re also unlikely to be at the center of a calamity. There are always some very lucky people for whom everything goes right, just as there are some very unfortunate people who experience the worst of things. However, most of us will never likely experience either extreme, but at most will endure inconveniences in life. So next time you grumble about a power glitch or an airline trip think of those who have lost everything, including their lives, and consider yourself fortunate, if not lucky.

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