By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Life Is a Ricochet"

That's a phrase I heard yesterday from retired University of Michigan professor Ralph Williams at a symposium on the occasion of his retirement (see link for some good downloadable lectures). What does he mean? I understood his remark as saying that life is a series of chance but significantly impacting interactions with other human beings, interactions that enrich and bestow meaning and pleasure on our lives. Does he believe in providence in these matters? I do not know.

But I do believe in providence in these matters. Tolkien's works contain teasingly wise insights on fate, luck, chance, opportunity, destiny, and providence. One of his commentators  wrote how the hobbits depicted by Tolkien believed that you had to grasp your chances and opportunities with "both hands" (see p. 146 of the Amazon book link at left; you can search for the passage I have in mind without buying the book). Providence provides occasions and opportunities--but our active and proactive response is an essential part of the equation. This complementary view (providence plus personal initiative) fits our Christian view of divine providence and of our free will and responsibility.  So, from a Christian perspective, if life is a series of  "ricochets," those encounters are not a matter of pure chance--unless we allow them to become merely matters of pure chance. A divine script is imbedded in the outwardly "chancy" looking ricochets. What do we then do with these encounters with others? Do we ignore them, do we fail to see opportunity, or do we dare to produce good from them?

If divine providence provides us (as I personally believe) with such opportunities on a daily basis, then we should practice awareness, vigilance, and boldness to grasp such opportunities with "both hands" when they come. Let's practice that daily "opportunism" for good before it is too late to do anything about such passing "ricochets."