When I came home in the early hours of Sunday morning, I absentmindedly switched on the TV and BBC2 was screening Fritz Lang’s 1953 film noir classic The Big Heat.
My friend asked, “When was that made? It looks very old.”
“Well,” I said, “it was way before they had an iPad.”
“But,” she replied without the slightest pause, “that woman’s got one!” and she disintegrated into laughter.
Because, at the exact same moment I said the word “iPad”, on the TV screen, a woman walked through the door wearing an eye-pad.
What are the odds of that coincidence happening?
Well quite good, actually.
The odds against unlikely events and coincidences always seem to me to be misquoted.
The odds of me myself being killed by a pig falling on my head are astronomically high. At least, I hope they are.
But if, God forbid, I live until I am 80 or so it is fairly likely that, sometime during my lifetime, several people in different parts of the world will have been killed by a pig falling on their head.
The odds of me being killed by a downwardly-mobile pig are low.
The odds of anyone being killed by a downwardly-mobile pig are high.
Bizarre coincidences happen. Bizarre events happen. All the time.
The odds are often not as high as they seem.
Millions of little events happen every month to every person on the planet. Most of these millions of events are totally forgettable. But, if one unlikely event or coincidence happens to you, you will remember it and the several-million-to-one chance of it happening will seem amazing but it is actually not unlikely given the millions of other times it did not happen.
And then there are the miracles in the Bible.
If you see Lazarus raised from the dead and you are a simple shepherd, fisherman or generic peasant who knows nothing about comas, it seems a rock-solid 100% miracle. But it is not so amazing.
I have read that, with the winds from the right directions, the waters in a tributary of the Red Sea, apparently, really do separate and it is possible, briefly, to literally walk across the sea bed from one side to the other. Something which seems utterly impossible does happen naturally – though very very rarely.
The odds against the Red Sea parting seem so great as to be impossible. And it seems against Nature. But (with a slight geographical adjustment – it’s not really the Red Sea itself) the impossible becomes merely a rarity. What seemed impossible becomes unlikely but possible.
And the unlikely happens all the time.
Which brings us back to iPads and eyepads.
Oh, alright, it’s not profound, but I find it mesmerising.