Timing is everything in life. Fate is decided by the most temperamental fractions of time that seem to fly by with ever increasing speed, the more they are subdivided in an effort to be held on to. Yet, they arise out of the ever new and forgiving present. It’s interesting to imagine how our lives might have been different, had it not been for those fateful but infinitesimal, merciful or cruel fractions of a second.
No where else is this fascinating relationship between time and causality more obvious than in sport. As we watch, in front of us on the grandest stages of the world’s greatest sporting events, hundredths of a second decide the outcome of competitions that determine the fate of sporting careers and futures of lives.
The difference between, the heroic legacy of victory or inglorious defeat, making the final and missing it, or scoring a goal and saving it, is often as small as a mere hundredth of a second. To put that in perspective, the fastest that we can blink our eyes is four-hundredths of a second.
I have been on both the winning and losing end of countless very close important races. When a victory is won by these smallest of measurable margins, it doesn’t quite feel as if it’s yours to claim. Something deep inside intuitively senses that although victory was experienced this time, it was given, in the sense that it was won, but not that you won it. The same applies to the scarring defeats, finishing a mere hundredth of a second behind the winner. Did you lose it or was it lost somehow?
The anguish of many sleepless nights that resulted from reliving close races, and ruminating over, and over again, the infinite permutations that might have resulted in one thousandth of a second is not easily forgotten.
This tiny fraction of time would have caused a different outcome by triggering the timing system to round up or down the decisive hundredth of a second that was responsible for victory or defeat. The mind can be merciless; one more or less ripple of resistance on the water’s surface, or a gust of wind from a storm over the horizon could have made more than the difference.
Left to its own devices, late at night and alone in the dark, my mind has explored this concept even further. I have intuitively sensed strange forces at work beyond my control, the effects of which aggregate over time to make up those millionths, ten of thousandths, and thousandths of a second difference that directly affected the outcomes of my career defining races in the World Championship and Olympic Finals.
Not only does this apply to sport, but the effects of these forces can be felt when you think back on all the coincidences that brought you to where you are today. Remember all those fateful encounters that resulted in life shaping experiences, those coincidences that brought you luckily to the right place at the right time.
Maybe if you are like me, you might even gratefully recognize the times when death was dodged by the narrowest of margins. What about those freak accidents where poor souls seem to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time?
You can call it luck, but is there really such a thing? Perhaps it’s all cause and effect, with each effect being the result of any number of causes that are themselves the results of previous effects stemming from antecedent causes, and so on back to the beginning of time. It helps to visualise a cause and effect tree, similar to the way in which we draw a family tree. Take for example, how the hand of cards you’re dealt is a direct result of the way the deck was shuffled and the order in which they are dealt.
Is it too far fetched to imagine that we are the results of causes of hereditary attributes and environmental conditioning that are themselves the results of previous causes reaching back before we were even born.
They say we are the results of our choices and that everything happens for a reason. Conceivably our “free will” is manifested in our choices, but when a choice is made, it’s always done for a reason. Our preference, itself being the result of previous causes, determines why we are apt to choose one course of action over another.
Overthinking the past actually happens in the present, and right now many more new and interesting things are taking place that I don’t want to miss out on. As for those closest of races, eventually, it boils down to a matter of perspective; are you doing it, or is it doing you?