Openness to Randomness

I only needed to read the headline of my friend Ryan’s blog to know what he’d be saying. He’s been talking about bubbles for a while now, so I could’ve guessed a blog on the topic was in the making.

But the fact that I was reading it while a man from Cox Cable was explaining a new television system to my friend, who had just moved to a new home, cemented what I’d be writing about today: Openness to Randomness.

So there I am reading about bubbles, and how we can isolate ourselves in our own worlds, with the assumption and belief that we are right – validated by only reading or viewing those things that assure that we are, in fact, right. And the guy from Cox is explaining how this new system takes all the movies and shows you’ve watched and makes suggestions, based on your past viewing habit, for what you might want to watch in the future. Netflix has nearly perfected this, as have Google and Facebook. In an effort to market to us more effectively, we’ve largely fallen into a cage of thought where we’re prompted to consume only that information or entertainment for which we’ve indicated we already enjoy.

Before long, if you don’t purposely break out of the “because you watched XYZ” trap, you’ll only be watching XYZ and bypass or never know about what might be an entire collection of shows, movies, articles and music that you might find equally, if not more, entertaining.

When all of my friends had moved on to digital libraries of music tailored to their interests, I continued to listen to the radio. The old style radio, while driving down the road (though I also enjoy Pandora Radio). Part of the reason is that I never know when one of my favorite songs, or a song I haven’t heard in ages, starts playing. And truthfully, that moment, when I hear a song I didn’t know I wanted to hear, is for me about as good as it can get. There’s excitement and anticipation. Sometimes, I’ll reach my destination and either drive around a little more or sit in the car until the song is finished so I can enjoy the entire thing. If I’m with my kids, there are a few songs, like Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So,” that launches us into spontaneous, albeit mostly bad, singing.

When I think on it, there are times in my life when the things I’ve planned to happen have happened, and those have been really rewarding. And, frankly, without some sort of plan, some path, life can be somewhat directionless. Sort of unmoored and subject to being pushed around by outside circumstance, or by the actions of others. Yet, I can’t ignore the truth that some of the best moments of my life have come from unexpected moments that weren’t part of a plan, that didn’t fit into any design for the future. Some of the people who I now call friends, who greatly enrich my life, began in a very simple, unexpected moment. Some of the most vivid memories I can recall came to me in the most random of ways.

The planned part was meeting Noah for a visit. The random part is the guy on the right, David, from the UK, who is riding the TransAmerica bicycle route. And really fun conversation.

These people and experiences came into my life, in part, because of an openness to randomness, which has allowed my world to become bigger and richer than it ever could be if I never lifted my eyes from the marked route.

And because I can relate almost anything to biking, or turn anything from cycling into a metaphor for life, I have to consider the people I’ve met on my bike, the unplanned routes I’ve taken, and the countless things I’ve seen from my bicycle seat that I never would’ve witnessed had I only been following the plan.

When I ride my bike, the point isn’t to get where I’ve planned to go. If that was all I hoped for, I’d drive and accomplish it much faster. The goal is the ride itself, to see what unexpected, unplanned and beautiful things lie in wait, between here and there.

Ladies I met on BAK, who made the best lemonade I’ve ever had.


A windmill. A big one. Didn’t expect that. Also on BAK.


Another random sighting on a bike.


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