Have you ever had a really good day? The kind of day where everything’s coming up roses, you get all your stuff done and stroll off at a reasonable hour, grinning over your shoulder like the hero of a Mentos commercial?
And then, someone backs into your car in the parking lot and takes off, or the drycleaner loses/shrinks/destroys your favourite shirt, your hot water tank gives up and floods your basement, and you find out a dear friend or family member is sick.
Why do bad things happen to good people, right? Why do bad things follow good things? Why is a string of good luck chased by a rash of the bad?
It could make a person begin to get a little paranoid, whenever things start looking up. We could all start furtively looking over our shoulders for the inevitable arrival of the bad news fairy. After all, the higher up we climb, the harder down we fall.
At least, there are plenty of people who adhere to this way of thinking: that the arrival of good news means a harbinger of doom is just around the corner.
I get it. It’s not hard to find examples of this theory. The day I realized I was finally totally comfortable dancing en pointe, I busted my ankle the following day. While out for dinner to celebrate my successful thesis defense, I discovered my mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Talk about letting the air out of my balloon. That day went from awesome to awful really damn fast.
“What goes up, must come down,” right? Shit happens, right?
What if it's not right?
What if it worked a little differently, though? I mean, after all, good things and bad things are happening all the time, all over the world. If it wasn’t through my egocentric view that I’m the centre of the universe (I intend no judgment by the term "egocentric": just for the record, egocentricity’s a pretty natural human perspective to have), I might see that at any given moment, there are amazingly fantastic, and fantastically horrific things occurring to people all over the world, with no rhyme or reason.
People falling in love; others divorcing. Babies being born; loved ones being mourned as the casket is lowered. Jobs being won; people being fired. Wars being fought; peace being enjoyed. Wealth; poverty. Starving hunger; abundance. And a whole host of much less-notable happenings, too. A good hair day; my coffee order getting messed up. Et cetera.
See, I don't believe that good things are necessarily followed by bad ones, or vice versa: I believe things are followed by other things. Period. Sometimes, they’re good; sometimes they’re bad. Sometimes, what’s good for me is bad for you. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. What if we didn’t believe it’s part of some malevolent and spiteful grand design?
The thing is, we aren’t unbiased in our evidence collecting. We have serious confirmation bias. If we believe that good news will be followed by bad, we probably won’t have to look very far to have our suspicions confirmed. It might be a statement of monies owed to the government, or a lover announcing their departure, or, barring anything so dramatic, it might be a stubbed toe, or shattered favourite mug.
It might be an hour later, a day, or a month, but if we’re playing the roulette game of good luck, the requisite unlucky streak is bound to show up at some point, when we will get to be right in how wronged we have been by the cruel hands of Fate.
See, we all find what we’re looking for.
If we go looking long enough, for the good, the bad or the ugly, we’ll find it, because all of it is all around us, all the time.
If things, however, are just followed by things, then I can relax. I don’t have to worry about something happening on the heels of another thing happening; I can expect and assume it will be. I don’t have to steel myself for the loss of my happy. I can just live in curiosity, and be willing to be with whatever comes, whenever it comes (and come it will).
When Sir Isaac Newton said (if he actually said this, which seems to be of some debate), “What goes up, must come down,” I believe he was referring to the laws of gravity, as opposed to positive and negative life events.
I like this take on the concept, from Theodore Sedgwick’s Hints to my Countrymen (1826): “When one boy among a dozen throws a stone into the air, crying out, that ‘what goes up must come down,’ it is very likely to happen.”
Life is full of things, good and bad. It’s entirely made up of them. Whether we’re looking for the good ones or the bad ones, that’s largely up to us, and what we’re looking for, based on our beliefs of how life works.
Things are followed by things. So relax.