I’ve placed the video below. It’s very short. The important part is near the end, when the second bike flies past him. His name is Valentino Rossi. He is travelling at a blindingly fast speed. He is generally considered one of the very best motorcycle racers of all time. And yet, to do that, he not only required a lot of practice and the skill that goes with it. But as this video proves, he also needed an enormous amount of luck.
In a good illustration of how our daily lives unfold, this high speed footage shows the massive pile of mathematics that were required for Rossi to avoid death on this day. The race needed to start precisely when it did. And ‘precisely,’ in this case is measured in thousandths of a second.
Then, he needed to travel the exact distance he did. Further out on a curve and he’s driving a longer distance around the track, which would add time. Likewise, his mistakes had to be just perfect, right down to the thousandth of a second.
He had to weigh exactly what he weighed that day. He had to be sitting exactly as he was, offering exactly the air-resistance that he was. And the same needed to be true for each of the other bikes involved.
The idea that all of this math could converge to create this exact race, were fantastically tiny. And yet Rossi’s life slipped through that extremely narrow opening. And people would be surprised at how much our daily life is like this moment by Valentino. They would be surprised to know how much of our good and bad fortune really isn’t ours at all.
If the track is where we are, and the bike is what we’re doing, and the other racers are other people –this is what our daily life looks like. We only survive because a person ran that red light a day ago and not today. We only keep our job because our boss woke up in a terrible mood on the same day we had a good day at work.
We only stay married because our spouse does not make friends at work with someone who would undermine the marriage. And the reason they don’t make friends with that person is because they remind our spouse of the person that picked on them in high school. So our marriage rests on the fluke of who our spouse took Chemistry class with.
Life is capricious every single day. Good people face terrible tragedies, and benefit from wonderful good fortune. And more often than not, we have very little do with it. Yes, we do have a lot of influence. But we still need the luck. And failure can still hinge on a lack of it.
The world is whizzing around, with people bisecting and intersecting each other’s lives, all while nature whirls around us. Things are invented, things are destroyed. Ideas and philosophies come and go.
We are like a seagull floating on an ocean. Yes, we have wings and we can become excellent flyers. But none of that will guarantee us fish, or a mate, and none of our abilities can protect us from a hurricane.
We are wise to use the control we have available. But we cannot go so far as to create expectations. Our intentions are just one part of the massive, combined formula that has many people and things adding up to the world we live in.
Rather than spending a lifetime fighting for control that can never come, we are better to live in the moment we are in, present and available to capture any good fortune that comes our way. Even if that opportunity turns out to be as tiny as Rossi’s.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.