Being a practical man, I do not often venture into matters of religion and theology, so this blog entry is going to be a little different than what the reader is usually accustomed to, from my pen (or keyboard, to keep this all contemporary). So bear with me, and have patience with my ramblings — for there may be some nuggets of knowledge one may be able to mine from these words.
Luck or pluck?
My friend Thomas Jefferson once said, “the harder I work, the more luck I have.” But what is luck, exactly? Is it the same thing as Providence? And what about Coincidence? What role do either of these have in how life ultimately plays out?
On some occasion, a long time ago, one of my acquaintances, who held rather liberal religious views, argued the point that his God does not intervene in human lives. Or, in other words, a God who acts boldly and directly in this world, much like the God who helped Moses, is not something he believes in. And so, he concludes, any good things that happen to us in our lifetime are the result of our own labor, not the involvement of some almighty being who likes to play with us as if we were no more than little dolls. (I might also add, my acquaintance was in distinguished company, for Thomas Jefferson once took it upon himself to revise the Bible by razoring out every phrase, line, or tale that even hinted of divine or miraculous events which contradicted his belief in the supremacy of human action.)
Ben takes the middle ground
On this particular subject, I find myself squarely in the middle (where I have often been, on a wide variety of issues and controversies.) While I myself may have echoed Thomas Jefferson with some of my pearls of wisdom in Poor Richard’s Almanack, such as “Diligence is the mother of good luck, ” I cannot in good faith attribute everything in my life simply to a measure of how hard I have worked.
Certainly, there are any number of times that I have labored valiantly and persistently, and received the hoped-for reward at the end of the process. Yet, there have also been countless times in which something mysterious happens, and by sheer stroke of luck or Divine Providence (definitely not of my own making), some unexpected gift falls into my lap — causing me to reflect on it later, and to wonder whether it was mere Coincidence, or instead, Providence working anonymously to effect some change or transformation in my life?
Coincidence of meeting Deborah Read, future wife?
For example, I could look at my arrival in Pennsylvania as a young lad — hungry, tired, bedraggled, and rather foolish-looking — and the fact that my first walk down the streets of Philadelphia brought me virtually to the doorstep of my future wife, Deborah, who saw me and must have been rather amused by my awkward and ridiculous appearance. Was that a Coincidence? Or was it Providence supplying a sign directing me to my future partner-to-be?
I have also marveled at how this world functions in so many multifaceted ways — such as rain falling on crops, which causes them to grow and provide sustenance for all of us earthly inhabitants. Coincidence? Or was there some Genius behind how this world was organized?
And let us not forget my famous lightning experiment! Was that Luck, Coincidence, or Providence? (In hindsight, it was very providential that my brush with heavenly electricity did not kill me on the spot.)
Evolution vs. Creationism
Now I realize this is a question that will not be answered in the space of this very short message you 21st century people call a “blog”… but I increasingly find myself wondering about all the other implications of this topic of providence vs. coincidence, since there is another related controversy, perhaps mirroring this one, that many people are concerned with today.
There appear to be two very vocal factions, pro and con, who have been at odds with one another in recent times over an “evolution vs. creation” disagreement.
One side would appear to suggest that the mind-boggling complexity of life on this planet was all a matter of some coincidence, helped along by evolutionary processes, while the other would argue that a very intentional, all-knowing and all-powerful Presence (call this Providence) guided and directed the creation of life from the very beginning, and up to the present day.
As a scientist, I might be inclined to side with the evolutionists; yet, as a man who has also been touched by unknowable mysteries and forces beyond my comprehension, I realize that there is no simple, black-and-white solution.
The only certain things in this world, as I’ve said on many occasions, are death and taxes. And that is where I shall have to leave this little philosophical discussion.
Your humble servant,