Friday, May 16, 2014

"Call It What You Will, But It's Something"

prov-i-dence (prov’i dans) n. the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.

Another way of looking at it:  “God-Lite” (for the “transcendentally intolerant.”) 

The term “Providence” was thrown around a lot by our Founding Fathers, most particularly by Thomas Jefferson, who not unlike me as a child when I said, “I like ice cream but take away the ‘cold’” might similarly have said, albeit considerably more elegantly, “I like the Something-Bigger-Than-Myself idea but take away the Divine miracles.”

Personal experience suggests that the Founders and others of their spiritual ilk were on to something.  Whatever name you favor, there does at times seem to be something more going on in my life than simply random chance. 

In my early twenties, I shared an apartment with two other guys, and we split the rent three ways.  Then one of the guys got married, and my remaining roommate and I split the rent two ways.  The math whizzes amongst you will be quick to determine that this altered arrangement would necessitate my chipping in more money – fifty percent of the rent bill rather than the earlier thirty-three and a third.  However that worked.  It would have required three thrup’ny bits.  (That’s wrong.  It’s a third of a penny.)

As it turned out, although I was not making an enormous salary at the time, at the precise moment when I needed them to, my freelance writing opportunities stepped up, and I found myself (suddenly, surprisingly and fortuitously) capable of contributing my half of the rent.

And then my remaining roommate got married, and once again, I was facing a substantially larger financial obligation, as in one hundred percent of the rent.

At this point, I had a number of options.  I could move to a smaller and cheaper apartment.  I could advertise for another roommate.  Or – Yikes! – I could move back home with my mother.  Which would have satisfied her greatly, as she had never understood why I had moved out in the first place.

(NOTE:  As a Canadian, there was no military draft to mandatorily extricate a young man from his parental domicile, and, as the University of Toronto was the best college option and I lived in Toronto, I did not qualify for accommodation in a dorm.  In Canada, the only way you could get out of the house was to either get married or to simply say, “I do not want to live with you anymore.”  And suffer the consequences.  Forever.)

Fortunately – and amazingly – once again a better paying writing situation materialized and I was able to stay exactly where I was – ensconced in a two-bedroom apartment I could pay for, but did not need.  

It was entirely bizarre.  Before my surprised eyes and other parts, I was at the last moment spared the necessity of “downsizing” my lifestyle, because somehow, through absolutely no effort on my part, I had serendipitously “upsized” my income. 

Fast Forward, but not too far…

I am working on the show that had allowed me to stay put, when Lorne Michaels calls me from Los Angeles.  Lorne asks if I would be interested in coming down and joining the writing staff for a Lily Tomlin special.  I inquire about the salary, and he tells me. 

I immediately compute that I am making more than that working in Toronto.  To accept Lorne’s offer, I would have to give up a better paying job.  Plus, the “Lily” job was only four weeks long, triggering the trepidaciary question, “And then what?” 

I rejected Lorne’s offer.

Flash Forward:  Three months later.  The show I am working on in Toronto is cancelled.  I now have nothing.  (If you don’t count a two-bedroom apartment I have to pay for myself with no salary. 

Oy, and alack-a-day.

Two days before my Toronto job ends and I am out on the street, I get a second call from Lorne Michaels, informing me that the Lily Tomlin special I had previously turned down had been postponed and rescheduled.  He is calling to see if I am interested in working on it now.

I happily inform him that I am.

Can you believe it?  I can’t.  Two days before “oblivion”, and I get am offered an opportunity (I had thought had long gone away) that, it turned out, would end up jumpstarting my career.

Last story, and then we’ll talk.

I have been living in Los Angeles for three years.  My career is going swimmingly.  My personal life, however, is non-existent.  And I am ready for something in that regard to change.   

It is time for me to get a “Green Card” – a permanent work permit – and for that, I required a chest x-ray. 

I am killing time hanging out on the patio next to the Century City Hospital, waiting for my chest x-rays to be developed.  While waiting, I encounter a woman awaiting the results of her Glucose Tolerance Test.  I ask her the time.  She tells me.  We go for a walk. 

And five years later, we are married.

I did not even tell her my name.  I was just grateful for an enjoyable walk.  But she tracked me down.  How?  On our walk, I reveal that I had recently won the “Humanitas Prize.”  As luck or something equally inexplicable would have it, she happened to be enrolled in the college whose administrators selected the “Humanitas Prize” winners. 

Fate?  “Divine Intervention”?  Providence?  Beshert?  (That’s Jewish for “meant to be.”)  Take your pick.  But with all of those stories, it certainly was something. 

You need money; it’s there.  You need work; it shows up.  You’re ready for a mate, and “just like that” – there’s my wife!

I mean, we all have stories like these, don’t we?  Unless – and wouldn’t that be something – it’s just me.  (Feel free to let me know if I am the only one beloved by the universe.)

Have bad things also happened to me?  Of course.  I shall spare myself the list by not accumulating one.  But terrible things have definitely occurred.  The above-mentioned stories, however, are more than simply a “cherry picking” of fortuitous events.  These are fortuitous events occurring at precisely the right time.

I don’t know, it just seems to me like there’s something going on.  If things fall into place and exactly the right moment, and you do not do make them happen yourself as in every one of those cases I didn’t

Then what exactly is going on?

Could it be possible that “Providence” is more than just a city in Rhode Island?


JED said...

I feel a little embarrassed to tell you a joke you've probably already heard but embarrassment has never stopped me before.

A man living in a remote area sees that the river is flooding so he prays to God to save him. Just before the only road to town is washed out, a police car arrives to take him to safety. The man refuses the policeman's help because he has prayed and God is going to save him. A boat passes by and offers to take him to safety. Again the man refuses because he has prayed to God and is awaiting His divine intervention. Then a helicopter comes by after seeing the man on the roof of his house due to the rising waters. The man refuses help again and sends the helicopter away because he is waiting on God. Then the water rises even more and the man drowns. When he gets to Heaven, the man is confused and asks God why he didn't save him and asks, "Didn't I pray earnestly? Didn't I have enough faith?" "Yes," said God, "you did pray earnestly and with faith. And I sent the policeman, the boat and the helicopter. What were you waiting for?"

The difference between "I got lucky" and "It's a miracle" is faith and how we perceive how God works in our world.

Frank said...

Wish I had such a fantastic how I met my wife story to tell!

GC said...

Bonjour Monsieur Earlo,

Your life experiences made you believe in providence. Some people, their life experiences make them believe in God: