Thinking of the mixed up mystery that is me gets me thinking about cause and effect and the chain of events that have led me to this moment right now, to be what I am, which is a mind that is wondering is it possible that it ever could have been any different? And that is a thought that makes me now think about the little black cat my lady and I cared for, at one time.
It was a stray cat that had been living in our garden but it was rehoused and shifted into an entirely different life because a washer gave way in our toilet cistern.
Cause and effect is very complex as soon as you move up from a few atoms and molecules, but it is still there. Things really do happen for a reason, if not for any purpose. The washer in the cistern gave way a few days before we had to make a weekend trip to visit my uncle. The plumber couldn't fix it before we went away, so I had to leave it running. Not dripping, but running quite steadily into the cistern, up over the overflow pipe, then down into the toilet bowl.
'It's not doing any harm,' the plumber assured me, so off we went. But just a few miles from home my pathologically worrying mind was visualizing the running water, and then imagining the washer giving way completely, so the overflow pipe would not take all the high pressure flow, and so the cistern would fill, and flood, and much of the house would be ruined. And why did I not turn the damn water off?
So two hours later, at the first coffee stop in a little cafe high up in the hills, I sat reflecting on there being too many damn stresses in my life. This damn worry about the water, and that one, and that other one... and by the time I reached about the sixth stress on my list I arrived at 'that damn stray cat' that we fed out of pity, but that was increasingly stressing us out, miaowing, annoying us, clawing at the door. And that suddenly seemed to be one stress that I could knock off the list.
So I turned to my lady and said, 'I've had enough of that cat, let's see if the Cat Protection people will take it in and rehouse it.' And she thought for about two seconds, and said, 'Okay.'
We got back two days later and found the water still running steadily, the house did not flood. The plumber replaced the washer the next day and the cat moved out a few days later.
Cause and effect. That cat moved on because a little plastic washer broke. And apparently the washer broke because some grit came through the water supply - the plumber found the evidence in the cistern. A little tear had grown, gradually, to a rip. And the grit got in the water because the mains supply pipe a few streets away had sprung a leak, and the first flow of gritty water happened to be diverted my way, because I flushed the toilet at just the wrong time, probably because I had to deal with the diuretic effect of too much coffee a few hours before.
So it was the molecules in the coffee, I suppose, the little trivial molecules. Trivial, tiny, but with the power to change a little cat's life forever, hopefully for the better. The coffee sent the cat onwards to its new home. Cause and effect. Simple in principle. Complex in reality.
But... hang on a moment... why did we have to make the weekend trip to England, without which the stress and the cat thought would not have arrived, not then, at least?
Oh, we had to visit my uncle who had recently received a hip replacement after a fall.
What caused that fall? A stretch he made to offer his used newspaper through an open window to a pal. An act of kindness by my uncle living many miles away, that's what caused the cat to be rehoused...
But then... Who left un-repaired the broken paving that caused the trip? And what broke it?
Oh stop it now! Otherwise I'll be tracing this cat's life-changing event back to the quantum fluctuation of a specific particle a few milliseconds after the big bang.
The big bang? Oh... What caused that?
And I know, I got distracted just as I was intending to write about something else entirely, because what I was really wondering, rather than thinking of the mysteries and complexity of cause and effect, was, 'What is this then? This life?'
I'll have to return to that issue later.