Tyche be praised
(Just saw the cover story in this month’s National Geographic which is very interesting. A massive religious site that makes Stonehenge look rather boring has been excavated. A revolutionary theory emerges that turns human history on its head. A religious impulse first drew our hunter-gatherer ancestors together to collectively worship and create the spectacular temples. Agriculture may have emerged after this in order to support the religious activity. So civilization started because of religion not the other way around.)
Heidegger defines humans (Dasein) as the being that takes a stand on its being. This need to have a point, to explain the wonder, anxiety and strangeness of being human
necessitates inspires religion.
What is worth worshipping? Contrary to the false religions of the prophets–those that claim historical authority–there is only one absolutely, verifiable power in the world that ought to be at the center of all religious activity: Tyche, accident, chance, luck, joss…
But in what form would such a religion take? How does one worship the mindless force of chaos that drives evolutionary progress but also rains destruction without warning? Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like the God of Abraham anyway. Is there any difference?
Suppose you are a rigid determinist and believe that the physical laws of the universe are fixed; all events are connected by a causal chain going back at least to the Big Bang. You don’t believe in chance–probability and statistics, of course these are scientific, but chance? No such thing. Or perhaps you are a Calvinist or a Muslim. These guys believe God/Allah determines absolutely every moment of history for His own purpose. It’s all part of His plan. Nothing happens in God’s universe by accident. The determinist takes comfort in the knowledge that everything happens for a reason. Free will is a chimera. Human beings, including all of human behavior, are fixed by either physics or the will of God. What appears to be choice is mere action. Part of the long chain of events leading to the Big Crunch or Judgment Day. Take your pick.
But is this view even remotely compatible with human experience? Even if either of these explanations were true, does it follow that there are no accidents?
What matters to a human being is meaning (intelligibility).
It doesn’t matter whether we have free will or whether the universe is materially determined or made up of collapsed probability waves. What matters is that we are limited bodies with unlimited imaginations. We tend to extend ourselves within an existential space and time and that stretching has lots of unintended consequences. One of which is our ability to imagine counter-factuals.
Working on ideas to honor Tyche, to cultivate a relationship with Tyche… Incorporate randomness into one’s life. Make chance events sacred. Utilize chance to a larger extent in decision making process. Practice unpredictability. Avoid routine. Wrestle with accident. The human side is to take the meaningless and make it meaningful. Take the randomly shaped lump of rock and make it into a mastadon. Manufacture meaning. Create significance. Tyche makes this possible. Without her, our creativity is totally derivative.