“From the story of Ajaolele’s trip to a distant market I turned to these ideas about evolution and about art to expand on the notion that Eshu is a god of uncertainty and accident, and that these functions are necessarily connected to his ability to change someone’s lot in life. These are all one and the same thing: leaving the village, the accident in the market, and the change of fortune. Ajaolele’s altered situation, his conversion into “a person with followers,” would never have come to him in the context of his own village, for the village is rule-governed and no man gets “brides without bridesweatlh” there. For a fundamental shift of that sort Ajaolele needs a happy accident, and for that it helps if he puts himself “on the road” and “in the market,” phrases I put in quotation marks because we should remember not to confine ourselves to their literal reading. At stake here is an attitude toward life, and you do not really need to leave town to have it. Duchamp makes that clear. You can be on the road at home and in the mind, attentive to the plenitude of coincidence that habit and design sometimes obscure. There is an old saying: “Luck is the residue of design.” Being “aware of Eshu” means entering a frame of mind in which the eye notices that residue all around it, the plentiful and ready-made world right at hand.” -Lewis Hyde, from Trickster Makes This World

It is a(n) (anti) habit of mine to make random choices as often as possible. I’ve developed this process over the years as my life has become busier and busier and the amount of conscious decisions I have to make on a daily basis has become more and more overwhelming. To the point where choosing a movie or choosing a book or choosing a topic to write about can paralyze me. There are so many wonderful things in the world to observe and ingest and participate in…sometimes it feels like the only option is to choose at random to ensure there is no confirmation bias preventing me from experiencing something new.

I realize it sounds a little crazy, but I actually have a process for choosing things at random. Several processes, actually*. For books, for instance, I use Goodreads as my gigantic reading list. I use it as a holding place for every single book that I see or hear referenced or recommended, and when it comes time to buy or borrow a book, I choose randomly from my gigantic list (generally using some sort of random number generator). I also usually choose multiple books – typically a mixture of fiction and non-fiction – which adds an element of mixed context to the randomness. The books I am reading together influence my experience of them individually.

For instance, a month or so ago, I happened to be reading The Ecology of Commerce, which had been loaned to me by a friend, along with some essays by Wendell Berry and Plutocrats. These were all chosen at random individually, and reading them together provided me with an in-depth study of cause/effect. Not to mention I’m pretty sure Wendell Berry was mentioned in both Ecology of Commerce AND Plutocrats, which made things even more interesting.

This is the kind of synchronicity that I get from allowing randomness in my life. It very much does open me up to more “happy accidents” and residual fate. The weaving of disparate ideas together to form a cloth of eclectic patterns and color combinations is a great source of inspiration for me. I’d never really thought about the benefits of this tendency I’ve had for some time now – thinking only that it enabled me to avoid having to make so many damn conscious decisions and never considering how opening myself up to the arbitrary might spur creativity and expansion.

Poem of the day is by Rilke, who I admit I am not really connecting with…but this poem seems applicable to this topic:

What Birds Plunge Through Is Not The Intimate Space

What birds plunge through is not the intimate space,
in which you see all Forms intensified.
(In the Open, denied, you would lose yourself,
would disappear into that vastness.)

Space reaches from us and translates Things:
to become the very essence of a tree,
throw inner space around it, from that space
that lives in you. Encircle it with restraint.
It has no limits. For the first time, shaped
in your renouncing, it becomes fully tree.

Submitted and Translated by Gabriel Caffrey

Rainer Maria Rilke
*Buddha the Grouch, my eldest son, makes fun of me for my obsession with random selection. He tells me “You spend so much time fighting for freedom and choice, and then you give up your choices to a random number generator!” I just nod and smile.