Randomness and getting outside your self

by Bob Schwartz

As noted before, I believe in the value of randomness, and keep a dish of polyhedral dice on my table as a reminder. I frequently quote Gregory Bateson:

“I am going to build a church some day. It will have a holy of holies and a holy of holy of holies, and in that ultimate box will be a random number table.”

We can take action, for better or worse, effectively or ineffectively, and we should try to. But we are not in complete control. According to different philosophies, that other power takes many forms, from people and institutions exercising their own controls, to higher powers intervening, to the vagaries of randomness.

As with all those belief systems, randomness helps get us out of our self. It removes us from the delusion that we can be, or aspire to be, the perfect mechanics of a finite and knowable machine. We are not those mechanics and there is no finite and knowable machine. What you think there is and the role you play depends on what you believe. But believe what you will, randomness is always there to get us outside our self.