MARTHA SEZ: ‘They couldn’t have roasted a turkey even if they’d wanted to’

In the novel “Laughter in the Dark,” author Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “A certain man once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and 20 years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish but there was no diamond inside. That’s what I like about coincidence.”

Some people like to proclaim, “There are no coincidences!” but they are mistaken.

September has brought us dark mornings and chilly evenings, reminding me of the winter months to come and harking back to that ill-fated Thanksgiving when, coincidentally, so many of the people I know were unable to roast their turkeys.

Perhaps the coincidence deniers believe that the celestial PTB– Powers That Be–angels, or whatever–have nothing better to do than lounge on clouds looking down at people and manipulating them like marionettes from on high.

Maybe they think the PTB are simply amusing themselves, the way small children play with ants–ants who, like us, are just minding their own business.

Beings who exist on a purely spiritual plane for all eternity must suffer from boredom. Try to imagine eternity. The PTB have way too much time on their hands. In fact, the concept of time is probably irrelevant to them, except in a purely academic sense.

When they are operating their hapless mortal puppets (us), they need to do so within the framework of time and space, as if they are solving a mathematical problem or working out a puzzle. They have to use Einstein’s theories in order to place two star-crossed lovers together “coincidentally” in a foreign land so that they fall in love with each other all over again after a long separation, the reasons for which also seem purely coincidental, but which, like the reunion, were of course due to the machinations of the PTB, who were as usual bored out of their minds and amusing themselves by playing with humans. At least it gives them something to do.

And yes, I know, these people believe that the PTB have truly benevolent and compassionate reasons for the ways in which they interfere in our lives, and that they don’t just trifle with our fates for their own amusement.

“It was meant to happen,” say the coincidence deniers.

All right, now that I have just about talked myself into the “Everything Happens for a Reason” belief system, I must mention Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, which stipulate that small and seemingly insignificant causes can result, over time, in disproportionately large effects. I like this idea, because it suits my world view of randomness.

Even if events don’t happen randomly, they don’t happen for the reasons we think they do, and there are so many unknowns that affect outcome, it all seems random from where we stand. We can’t accurately forecast the weather, much less predict the future. All kinds of things will collide and coincide in ways that are far beyond our ken, and, what is more, in ways that are completely impersonal and meaningless as far as we are concerned.

Of course that totally rules out any chance of the PTB pulling the strings behind the curtain.

If you tend toward conspiracy theory in your belief system, or if you say that there is no such thing as coincidence, I would love to hear what you have to say about the Great Thanksgiving Turkey Roast Fiasco. Here are the facts.

One year I celebrated Thanksgiving with my younger sister and brother in our home town in Michigan. My sister’s oven had stopped working, so they couldn’t have roasted a turkey even if they’d wanted to, but Sissy and Jimmy have a tradition of getting together for elaborate sandwiches on Thanksgiving, so in this case it didn’t matter. Coincidentally, however, her daughter in Chicago also experienced oven failure on Thanksgiving, and so she and her husband and their children ate out at a restaurant.

Meanwhile, my friend Darla in Elizabethtown, New York, was just taking her turkey out of the oven when the wiring burst into flame and her husband, Larry, jumped up to throw the breaker. They called the fire department.

Which leads up to the big power outage in Keene that afternoon. Many turkeys were already cooked, but a lot of potatoes didn’t make it to the table, and many a family that hadn’t planned a romantic evening ate by candlelight.

Were these random events, or did they “happen for a reason?” I say they’re purely coincidental.

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the News for more than 20 years.)