Destiny Introduction
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SUBCHAPTER 01
- INTRODUCTION

 

My name is Rick Archer.  Destiny is the story of how I created a Houston dance studio named SSQQ (short for Slow Slow Quick Quick).

This saga covers a key eight year period of my life stretching from 1973-1981.  

There is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest SSQQ was the largest dance studio of its kind in America.  If that is true, then I suppose during my career of 32 years I taught more people how to dance than any other dance instructor in history.  I taught social dancing... Swing, Disco, Ballroom, Latin and Country-Western.

SSQQ was definitely the largest dance studio in Houston, Texas.  At its peak, SSQQ saw as many as 1,400 people a week walk through its doors.  My dance studio was always a swirling beehive of activity.

This is all well and good, but why would anybody be interested in reading a book about a dance teacher? 

Not to demean my chosen profession, but dance teachers are not all that important in a practical sense.  On a list of the 1,000 most important people chosen to populate the Moon or Mars, I doubt seriously any dance teachers will make the cut. 

So why bother to read my book? 

What if I told you my story has elements bordering on the supernatural?  What if I said that I continued to get breaks that were so ridiculously well-timed that I could not help but succeed?  What if I admitted I was totally unqualified for my job and yet I succeeded anyway? 

According to the Bible, back in the days of Moses, God's miracles were both frequent and impressive.  If there is any doubt about that, take the time to watch the Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner.  Behold the burning bush, the voice of God, and a wooden staff that turns into a cobra.  That's just the warm-up.  Next comes the plagues.  The Nile turns to blood and fish die.  Now we see a procession of frogs, lice, flies, hail, boils and locusts.  Three long days of darkness are followed by the horrifying mist that causes the death of the first-born.  As the Hebrews escape, we see the pillar of fire and the parting of the Red Sea.  The Hebrews are safe.

This, of course, was followed by a moment of dark humor.  As Moses leaves to receive the Ten Commandments, the Hebrews lose faith and conduct a pagan orgy.  They build a golden calf as an idol, then indulge their most wanton desires in an orgy of sinfulness.  I was incredulous.  How did they lose their faith??  Those Hebrews sure needed a lot of convincing.  Moses had me the moment that staff of his turned into a snake!

And what is my point?  It is one thing to have Faith in God.  However, I am not a 'Blind Faith' kind of guy.  I prefer to have Faith based on my powers of observation.  There are no burning bushes in these modern times.  If God does exist, I think we can all agree that His clues are subtle to say the least.  Therefore I have chosen a rather peculiar vehicle to bolster my belief in God - my own dance career.

I believe my story is testimony to the possibility of Destiny.  There is no way to prove Destiny.  However, the curious events of my story will certainly raise an eyebrow.  There is a real chance I have been privileged to witness something profound.  Throughout my story, I point to the unusual and unexplained experiences that have led me to believe my dance career was predestined. 

Why do I say I was unqualified?   Because I had no business accomplishing what I did.   There for the Grace of God go I...

There are people who have 'Most Likely to Succeed' written in their Senior yearbook.  I daresay I would have been the hands down choice to receive the 'Least Likely to Succeed' comment at my high school.  I say this with absolute sincerity.  I am so utterly convinced of my lowly status in high school that I wrote an entire book... A Simple Act of Kindness... simply to back up my claim.

Indeed, in a world where people ordinarily pat themselves on the back at the ingenuity of their accomplishments, I contend I had no business creating the largest dance studio in America.  What makes my story so improbable are the obstacles I faced.  I started with no talent for dance, minimal social skills, no money, no friends, and two ridiculously inept parents (one of whom abandoned me).  I started adulthood with profound psychological issues, a fact I will prove starting in Chapter One.  

I didn't even want to be a dance instructor.  It happened by accident... or Fate.

Many people who are successful start training at an early age.  They show a talent and nurture it.  Not me.  I never danced in high school.  I never danced in college.  I never danced in graduate school.  When I finally did get around to dance classes, I only did so in desperation after my dismissal from graduate school.  And guess what I discovered in dance class?  I was a failure at dancing. 

I was a failure with women.  We will establish that fact in Chapter Three.  That is why I decided to take dance lessons in the first place (Chapter Six).  Strangely enough, the dance project I embarked upon would turn into a dance career years later down the road.

After I was thrown out of graduate school, I was pretty much shattered.  However, I was not a total loser.  I did have some talents.  I was educated.  I was reasonably smart.  I was persistent.  I possessed burning ambition.  Throw those four qualities in a pot, add a strong dose of abject loneliness and now we have the start of a long climb out of mediocrity.  However, there is one missing ingredient from that recipe... luck.  I was the recipient of a countless number of well-timed lucky breaks.  After a while, I stopped wondering why I was so lucky all the time.  It was about this point that I accepted that the best explanation for my success was Fate.  In other words,  Divine intervention. 

I was so lucky that I adopted a motto:  “It is hard to believe in coincidence, but it is even harder to believe in anything else.”

I mentioned my dance career was a complete accident.  One can assume most people pursue their profession, especially those who reach a pinnacle.  Not me.  I never trained a day in my life.  Any serious training I received came one year after my career started.  Indeed, I never had a dance lesson in my life until I was 24 (1974).  I had no business being a dance teacher for the simple reason that I was a lousy dancer.  I will establish this fact in Chapter Eight.  One typically expects a lawyer to have the gift of logic or an accountant the gift of numbers.  Who ever heard of a dance teacher who couldn't dance?   I had no gift for dancing.  I was a slow learner who lacked any natural grace on the dance floor.  Indeed, I never won a dance contest in my life.  Nor could I do dance performances.  Due to some sort of mysterious curse, I failed miserably the first seven times I tried to perform.  I was strangely prone to accidents that defied explanation.  Indeed, one of my dance partners came within inches of breaking her neck.  After the seventh failure without a single success, I just quit trying.  There would be no glory for me... I was the dance teacher who couldn't dance.

The fact that I became a dance teacher at all was a complete fluke.  I never interviewed for my job as a dance teacher.  It was simply handed to me (Chapter 24).  For the next month I taught line dances to 15 people.  Then out of nowhere Saturday Night Fever hit.

Was I a star?  Heavens no.  Most of my students were better dancers than me.  I was in completely over my head.  I struggled mightily for two solid years before I became an adequate teacher and dancer.  On several occasions, I barely missed being exposed as the imposter I was.  Then, just when I hit my stride, a crisis hit.  My career as a dance teacher appeared over due to a perfect storm of calamities.  Fortunately, as usual, an enormous lucky break saved the day.  At that point, I sprinted to the Finish Line. 

After eight years of scrambling, my rollercoaster ride had finally reached a resting point.  At that moment, I realized that I now owned the largest dance studio in Houston.  I was mystified.  This was all very improbable to me.  Did I exult?  Well, kind of, except that the whole thing felt like such an accident.  I never set out to own a dance studio.  It just 'happened'.

 

That is when I asked myself a question... How did I do this?  

Although I was proud of myself and pleased with my achievement, I was aware I had no business being this successful.  It is one thing to complete a long journey, but my accomplishment was more like a misguided Columbus stumbling onto the New World.

Now I was curious.  Up till now, I had been far too busy coping with one crisis after another to give my dance career any sort of overview.  However, due to my breathing room, I had a chance to retrace the events.  I noticed that I had received a lot of lucky breaks.  The problem was that I had taken each lucky break for granted.  For example, I was handed my job as a dance teacher.  It is one thing to acquire qualifications, then beat out other candidates for a job or a role.  Not me.  I had simply been handed this job without asking.  It was a huge break.  However, one odd event by itself can be overlooked.  Once is an incident...

Once I got my foot in the door, I was presented with one opportunity after another which allowed me to expand my role.  Given the luxury of perspective, I realized I had not received a lucky break here or a lucky break there, but rather an entire series of lucky breaks had been handed to me.   Two is a coincidence...

I knew the secret of my success... I was lucky!!  Make that 'unbelievably lucky'.

In fact, I had received so many breaks that I began to get suspicious.  Something uncanny had taken place.  Once I connected the dots, it appeared like I had been following a path that had been laid out for me every step of the way.  That is when I concluded my dance career was a Fated event.  Three is a pattern... 

 

No other explanation was satisfying to me.  I certainly hadn't accomplished this through any advanced training, any natural dance ability, or any gift of wonderful people skills.  I had no inheritance.  I had no patron.  I had people who helped me along the way, yes, but I had traveled this path alone.  Most successful people follow a well-beaten path of some sort to the top.  Not me.  I stumbled every inch of the way.  Truthfully, on the surface I had nothing going for me and I knew it.  At this point, my mind turned to the supernatural.  As strange as it seems, in my mind, this conclusion made more sense than any realistic explanation.  I had no business being here.

So here is the mystery... was my accomplishment simply an example of uncanny Dumb Luck or was it indicative of Divine Intervention?  

I offer my story as a public recounting of what my heart says was a religious experience.  However, I will be the first to admit that there could be other explanations as well.  So I will leave it to the Reader to decide... did my uncanny streak of good fortune exceed my limited talent enough to suggest the assistance of a Higher Power?  Or was it all just luck? 

I contend I had someone helping me.  You be the judge. 


A MEDITATION ON COINCIDENCE

"The more frequently one uses the word ‘Coincidence’ or ‘Luck’ to explain bizarre happenings, the more obvious it becomes that one is not seeking, but rather evading the real explanation." 
  
      -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson

"It is hard to believe in coincidence, but it is even harder to believe in anything else."

     -- unknown

 


SUBCHAPTER 02
- FATE

 

Fate.  Does Fate really exist? 

The Norse certainly believed so. The Norns were female beings who ruled the Destiny of men.  Verdandi, Uror, and Skuld were described as powerful maiden giantesses who appeared at a person's birth in order to determine his or her future.

Two thousand miles away, by coincidence the Greeks adopted a similar mythology.  Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos were known as the Greek Fates.  The Fates were three old women who controlled the thread of life for every mortal from birth to death. 

However, the Fates were not the final arbiters of Destiny.  In addition to the Fates, the immortal Greek Gods meddled with the affairs of men at every turn.  The ancient Greeks held a morbid preoccupation with the Gods of Olympus for the simple reason that the Olympians loved to interfere with everyday matters.

According to Homer, author of the Iliad, the Trojan War was the direct by-product of the Gods constantly playing havoc with mankind.  The Trojan War was launched by a beauty contest between three Goddesses who asked Paris to pick which Goddess was the prettiest.  Aphrodite, the winner, helped Paris kidnap Helen of Troy as his reward. 

Athena and Hera, the sore losers, sent the Greeks to start a war to teach Paris and Aphrodite a lesson.  Apollo and Aphrodite opposed them and made sure to give Troy a fighting chance against the massive Greek force.  Then, once the war began, all the other Gods lined up to see how they too could manipulate the outcome.

In the end, it was the cunning Athena who won the war.  It was Athena who whispered the idea for the Trojan Horse into the ear of the Greek hero Odysseus.  In other words, a person's Fate was only as good as the God or Goddess who championed them. 

 

Homer's Iliad was preoccupied with the concept of Fate.  Indeed, the Iliad began with the discussion of The Will of Zeus.  Homer made sure to demonstrate the Greek belief that man is vulnerable at all times to supernatural forces he cannot control.  Man's only hope was to seek the favor of their Gods.  Consequently, many temples were built.

Throughout the Iliad, the characters constantly refer to destiny and fate.  For example, Achilles, the main character of the book, was given an overall invulnerability to injury by the Gods.  This allowed him to become the greatest warrior of all. 

However, despite his power, Achilles had one fatal flaw.  Thetis, his mother, had forgotten to cover her baby's heel with the magic waters of the River Styx at birth. 

Once she realized her mistake, Thetis knew that Achilles was left with one area vulnerable to the Archer's bow.  Therefore, at the start of the Iliad, Thetis begged Achilles not to go to war. 

"Doomed to a short life, Achilles, you have so little time left. And not only short, but filled with heartbreak too... more than all other men alive

Do not go, my son.  If you go, you are doomed twice over." 

Achilles and the death of Hector as the Gods watch on
 

 

Fatal flaws were a favorite theme in Greek mythology.  Or sometimes it was the bad misfortune of stepping on the wrong toes.

Homer's Odyssey was the story of Odysseus, the Greek hero who ended the Trojan War using Athena's suggestion.  On his return home to Greece, Odysseus angered powerful Poseidon by blinding Polyphemus, the one-eyed Cyclops, to escape capture.  Polyphemus just happened to be the son of the Sea God.  Looking for revenge, Poseidon punished Odysseus.  He made sure Odysseus would face danger in every corner of the Mediterranean Sea.  Finally Odysseus fell captive to the sea nymph Calypso on a remote island.  After seven years of captivity, his patron goddess Athena intervened.  When Zeus ordered Calypso to set her beloved Odysseus free, Calypso begged him to reconsider.  Zeus replied it was not his Destiny to live with her forever.

The Greeks were obsessed with Destiny.  Achilles and Odysseus may have been mythological characters, but not Alexander the Great.  Alexander was hardly the product of someone's imagination.  Alexander was just as preoccupied with his Destiny as his hero Achilles had been.  Shortly before he embarked on world conquest, he made a journey to the Oracle of Delphi.  Alexander was told he was invincible. 

"Alexander, you will never be defeated.  That is your Destiny."

On one level, we laugh at the improbable events of the Trojan War and the ensuing Odyssey as the entertaining product of Homer's fertile imagination.  But what if the Greeks were on to something?  Maybe they were right about Fate. 

Alexander the Great certainly thought so.
 

 


SUBCHAPTER 03
- REINCARNATION

 

I was a philosophy of religion major at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  As part of my curriculum, I spent a considerable amount of time studying metaphysics.  This was about the same time the Beatles went to India to study under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  By chance, I had just embarked on a Magical Mystery Tour of my own.  During this time of searching for the meaning of life, I ran across a remarkable book titled the Autobiography of a Yogi. 

The book was written by Paramahansa Yogananda, a yogi from India.  The book purported to tell the real life adventures of this spiritual master.  In his book, Yogananda stressed that through Reincarnation, we are continually being presented with challenges that will promote soul growth.  Yogananda also explained the important concept of Karma

Karma refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where the actions of an individual will influence his future.  In simple terms, good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness while bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering.  Karma is closely associated with the idea of rebirth.  Karma not only affects one's future in the current life, it may well affect the direction of future lives.  A man who kills someone in this lifetime may well be the victim of a murder in the next.

As a philosophy major, my biggest problem was reconciling my concept of a loving God with the immense amount of suffering in the world.  As Yogananda explained the twin mechanisms of reincarnation and karma, I was immediately drawn to this thought.  Karma implied justice.  Karma suggested those who suffer in this lifetime may have done something to deserve their Fate in a previous lifetime.  Considering all the suffering in the world, I was immediately drawn to the possibility there was a hidden system of reward and punishment. 

My major problem with religion had always been the One Life tryout to decide whether we are worthy of Heaven.  Considering the unlevel playing field at birth for most of the human race, the Christian concept of just one life to prove one's virtue never seemed fair.

 

I was deeply intrigued by Autobiography of a Yogi.  At least now I had finally found a religious system that made sense to me.  My need for Cosmic Justice had been appeased. 

I deeply wished the Material World was constructed the way Yogananda had illustrated.  However, wishing doesn't prove anything.  I had no proof for the validity of these ideas.  Nor did I have the privilege to see any staffs turn from wood to snake. 

I might add that Karma and Reincarnation were not the easiest concepts to prove.  But that didn't mean I shouldn't try. 

It was at this moment that I decided to spend the rest of my life investigating these ideas.  In other words, my search for evidence of God began the moment I read Yogananda's book.

 


SUBCHAPTER 04
- COINCIDENCE

 

Coincidences don't just happen to me.  They happen to all of us.  However, since coincidences don't happen very often, we don't usually keep very good track of them.  Furthermore, most coincidences are just plain silly which is why we dismiss them so readily.  I once had a girlfriend start singing 'People are strange', a phrase from a Doors song that was twenty years old.  Oddly enough, I had just begun singing the same song.  We were walking in the woods and there was no particular trigger.  It was pure coincidence.  Was it important?  No.  So we promptly forgot about it.  But it was weird. 

Russian author Vladimir Nabokov, writer of Lolita, once made fun of coincidence.

“A certain man once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea.  Twenty years later, on the exact date, even the same day of the week, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish.  He looked inside, but there was no diamond.  That’s what I like about coincidence.” 

However, not all coincidences are easily dismissed.  Once in a while, a coincidence can be so abnormally weird that it leaves us shaking our heads in bewilderment.  We search desperately for a rational explanation, but no rational explanation ever appears.

 


In 1898, Morgan Robertson wrote a book titled Futility.  The subtitle was The Wreck of the Titan.  The similarities in the book to the actual wreck of the Titanic are uncanny.

In the fictional version as well as the actual event, both ships struck an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic.  Both the story and the actual collision took place at midnight in mid-April.

The Titanic disaster took place 400 miles from Newfoundland.  The Titan disaster took place 400 miles from Newfoundland.

Since the Titan was considered unsinkable, it carried far too few lifeboats, "as few as the law allowed."  In real life, more than half the Titanic's 2200 passengers and crew died.  In the book, more than half the Titan's 2500 passengers drowned.

Although Morgan Robertson was a well-known writer of short stories, he became deeply frustrated when no one would publish his book.  The rejection letters all said the same thing.

"Sorry, but no one will ever believe this story."

The sinking of the Titanic took place in 1912.  Morgan Robertson wrote his book in 1898, a full 14 years before the actual tragedy took place.
 

 

Yes, I know the argument... random chance.  With so many people here on earth, statistically-speaking some weird stuff is bound to happen sooner or later.  Coincidences don't prove anything.  But they sure make you wonder.

Is it possible to foresee events in the future?  If there really is such a thing as Fate, then perhaps there is precognition as well.  The Titan-Titanic anecdote certainly suggests the possibility.  I once had an event of my own suggestive of precognition.  Precognition is certainly not a gift I possess, yet back in college one day I had a fantasy that became a reality two weeks later. 

It was March 1971.  I was in the second semester of my Junior year in college.  I was in the final phase of my Magical Mystery Tour, the two year stretch I spent in college pondering the mysteries of life.  Out of nowhere, a highly unusual idea crossed my mind.

As I sat in a reading room on campus one afternoon, I grew tired of studying.  Taking a break, I found myself daydreaming for a moment.  I asked myself what sort of job I would like to find for this upcoming summer.  Until now, I had not given summer employment a single thought. 

That is when a fun thought drifted into my mind.  Wouldn't it be cool to be a camp counselor?  

A big smile crossed my face.  Very cool indeed.

I had spent my entire life inside the protective walls of St. John's, my high school, and Johns Hopkins, my college.  After twelve long years of study study study, I was sick of academia.  Wouldn't it be great to get outdoors for a change?  Canoes, swimming, archery, softball, basketball, volleyball, nature hikes, practical jokes, marshmellows over campfires, ghost stories...  The very thought of it all had me smiling, so I continued to daydream.

Where would I like to be a counselor?  Well, Colorado, of course.  I had visited Colorado several times as a boy and went absolutely nuts over the mountains.  To me, Colorado was the most beautiful place on earth.

That is when I stepped back.  What an odd thought this was.  I had never been to a summer camp.  For that matter, I had never before thought of being a camp counselor.  Today the idea just popped into my head out of nowhere.  I casually wondered where such strange thoughts come from.  It was almost as if someone had put the idea in my head. 

As I rolled the novel idea around, I agreed it sounded like fun.  However my practical side kicked in and dismissed the thought.  How silly to even imagine.  What were the chances of finding a job like that?

For one thing, there wasn't much time left.  This was March.  Summer was two months around the corner.  Plus I had absolutely no idea where to even begin looking.  Since I had never been to summer camp, I did not know the name or location of a single place.  Nor did I know of anyone who had ever been to a summer camp to offer a suggestion.  I didn't have the slightest idea how to go about applying.  It seemed unlikely that this reading room had any magazines on summer camps.

I imagined if I tried hard enough, I could ask around and come up with the names of several camps.  However, how would I get hired?  Even if I went to the trouble of sending a letter to a total stranger, why would they hire me?  What skill did I have to offer that made me special?  Long ago I had been a boy scout for one year, just long enough to get a couple merit badges and figure out the sun rises in the east.  Would that be enough?  Unlikely.  Let's face it... I had no unique skill that made me any better than the rest.

Furthermore my practical side suggested that most camp counselors were chosen in-house.  In other words, any college student who had previously attended a particular summer camp as a teenager would have the inside track.  The ones who had made a good impression as a camper would surely be asked to return as a counselor.

This was hopeless.  I shrugged.  Oh well.  My camp counselor idea was a nice fantasy, but far-fetched at best.  It seemed like a complete waste of time to give it another thought, so I returned to my studies.  I never lifted a finger and soon forgot all about it.

Two weeks passed. 

I was raised as a Quaker.  Homewood Friends Meeting was a place next to campus where the Quakers met on Sundays.  I noticed they had a day care center, so one day I dropped by and offered to do some volunteer work.  I liked playing with the kids and it was a fun thing to do a couple afternoons a week.  Normally pick-up basketball was my afternoon activity, but I was doing this volunteer work as a way to snap myself out of my constant loneliness.

One day I was playing with Eric, age 4, my favorite kid.  I made a point to seek him out whenever I was there.   Great kid, all boy.  I loved to chase Eric through the elevated playhouse, across the hanging wood bridge and crawl through the tunnel, etc.  I could be a great monster when given the chance.  Today I was in rare form. 

"Grr, grr, I'm gonna get you, Eric, and when I catch you, I am gonna sit on you!!"

Eric and I had a standing joke that monsters were so stupid they thought "babysitting" meant sitting on the baby.  Hence the threat to sit on him.  Eric squealed with delight as I lumbered after him, growling the whole time. 

We were right in the middle of monster mania when Eric's mother Jennifer arrived.  When Jennifer called out to him that it was time to go, Eric immediately began to protest.  "I don't want to go, Mommy.  I want to stay here and play with Rick!"

Jennifer laughed.  Eric's protest was a part of our little game.  The three of us went through this practically every time Jennifer appeared.

Today I noticed Jennifer had a lady friend with her.  The woman was about 30, a couple years older than Jennifer and ten years older than me.  She was much too old for me, but I could not help but notice how pretty she was.  I sighed appreciatively and wished for the millionth time that Hopkins had coeds.  Then I blushed when I realized this woman had been watching our game of monsters.  Good grief.  Jennifer already knew I was nuts, but this pretty woman must think I was the silliest boy on earth. 

As Eric hugged his mother's leg, Jennifer noticed my appreciative gaze at her guest.  Jennifer decided to make an introduction.  

"Rick, this is my sister Mary Colvig.  She is visiting me here in Baltimore for a couple days."

I smiled.  I introduced myself and we shook hands. 

"Hello, Mary, welcome to Baltimore!  Where are you from?"

"Colorado."

My eyes quickly furrowed.  Colorado?  I instantly had the funniest feeling. 

"That's interesting.  When I was a boy, I visited Colorado four different summers with the Clarks, a family I am close to.  I absolutely love Colorado.  In fact, I was thinking of applying to graduate school in Colorado.  What do you do in Colorado?"

"My husband Craig and I are opening a summer camp in Durango.  This will be our first year."

No way.  My heart skipped a beat. 

"No kidding?  Gee, that's an odd coincidence.  I was thinking of working as a counselor this summer.  I have been to Durango and I love that area."  I hesitated here.   Did I have the guts to ask?  Yes, I did. 

"Mary, I shouldn't ask, but do you have any openings?"

Awaiting her answer, I stopped breathing.  I could not believe this was happening.   Maybe I was dreaming.  Nope, I wasn't dreaming.

 

"Why, yes, by chance we do!  But we are leaving town tomorrow.  Can you come over to Jennifer's house tonight and speak to my husband Craig while we're still in Baltimore?"

Jennifer quickly spoke up. 

"Oh, Mary, I think Rick would be a terrific counselor.  He loves kids and the kids here at the day school adore him.  Just look at Eric; Eric goes nuts over him."

At this comment, Mary broke into broad smile.  She knew what Jennifer was up to, but didn't mind a bit.  If anything, Mary appreciated hearing her sister's personal endorsement.

So did I.  Wow!  Nice timing on the compliment.  I smiled at Jennifer and whispered a discreet 'thank you very much!

I talked with Mary's husband Craig that night.  He liked me and, boom, just like that, I got the job.  I would spend my entire summer working at their camp in Durango, Colorado. 

Wouldn't it be nice if everything in life was that easy?? 

 

“It's hard to believe in coincidence, but it's even harder to believe in anything else.”

The problem with coincidences is that they are weird and they make no sense.  We have no scientific method to explain them.  Nor is there any way to test them.  Coincidences don't happen very often.  A coincidence will appear out of nowhere and then they are gone.  At this point, we are left with wonder and confusion.  Once life kicks in and we get distracted, it is easier just to forget about it and move on.  Rather than hold the Universe accountable for an event that seems to break all known laws of probability, we chalk it off as something odd, then get on with things.

However, I refuse to let it go.  Thanks to the Yogananda autobiography, I pay close attention to everything that happens to me.  Okay, so a coincidence by itself proves nothing.  However, what happens when we begin to add up several coincidences?  During my childhood, I identified eight coincidences that seemed to defy all logic.  I covered these events in my previous book, A Simple Act of Kindness.

A boy walked in my room at the exact moment to catch me cheating...  I arrived at a train station just in time to see my girlfriend betray me.... a grocery store manager saw me walking by at the exact time he had an emergency job opening I could help with...  an idle thought stopped my progress just in time to see a hurtling car fly past my eyes... a woman from my school appeared out of nowhere at a different location to rescue me from the deepest depression of my life.... a book on chess appeared as if by magic to help me destroy a nemesis... a pin-point basketball toss ended my basketball career... a traffic accident on a very busy street at noon left me lying unable to move on the street, but no car was in sight... 


I believe the existence of unusual coincidences raises a lot of questions.  Unfortunately I have no definitive answer to these questions.  All I know is that the coincidences in my life have aroused my curiosity.  At what point do we stop chalking extreme coincidence up to random chance and begin to look for a better explanation?  How many coincidences does it take before someone has the right to be curious?  Is eight enough?

I have spent my entire life speculating that one possible explanation for what we call 'luck' and 'coincidence' might be unseen entities.   Is it possible that some sort of Guardian Angel was responsible for arranging some or all of my coincidences?  These entities could very well coordinate certain events in our lives without any knowledge that we are being manipulated.  Our only clue that someone might be toying with us again is when the odds of the event defy all laws of probability.

My own experiences lead me to wonder if certain 'chance events' are not 'chance' at all, but rather somehow arranged behind the scene according to a master plan.  What exactly is 'luck'?  What exactly is a 'miracle'?

My favorite explanation for strange events is the Quiet Whisper theory.  Sometimes I ask myself where 'ideas' come from.  Naturally we all believe in our own imagination, but what if it is possible for an outside force to contact us?  We speak of 'inspiration', but who exactly 'inspires' us?   We think some thought is our own idea, but maybe the idea came from somewhere outside of us.  Is it possible there are entities beyond our sight who have the power to put ideas into our minds using the power of telepathy?  Is it possible our thought processes can be influenced in some way without our realizing it?

I was five years old.  I wanted to cut a thick piece of rope in half.  I found a dull kitchen knife and went to work on the front step of the house.  My mistake was to pull the knife towards me instead of away from me.  Yes, I was very stupid.  So are a lot of five year old kids.

After ten minutes, I was nearly finished, but I wasn't aware of it.  Unbeknownst to me, there were just a couple strands of thread left.  Suddenly my mother called to me from another room.  She had no idea what I was up to, but there was urgency in her voice.   

"Rick, we need to go right now.  Whatever it is you are doing, hurry up!"

Hearing the urgency, I decided to give the rope one more big tug.  The knife went right through the rope and continued on through my left eye.


What is my point?  The timing was inexplicable.  Without my mother's voice, I would have finished cutting the rope at a normal pace with no problem.  And yet the exact timing of her call was difficult to overlook.  Did the laws of karma dictate that I was to lose an eye that day?  If so, did someone put the idea in my mother's mind to shout at me at the exact time to send me into a panic?  Did someone plant the idea in my mind to give the rope a mighty tug?  Most people wouldn't give it a second thought, but I analyze everything.  I never forgot it was her voice that made me take that giant stroke.  That said, please be aware I never blamed my mother for my blind eye. 

Of course this sounds preposterous.  My realistic side is well aware of that.  However, if God exists... and there are a lot of people who believe that He does... then is it that much of a stretch to believe there might be a system in place to coordinate important life events? 

Perhaps it was my Destiny to lose an eye that day.  Que sera, sera.  By itself, my lost eye incident means nothing.  However, when one begins to line up each individual incident side by side, a pattern begins to emerge.  At this point, that which we call Reality starts to take on a much different meaning.  Perhaps there is a hidden world that controls our life. 

 


A MEDITATION ON COINCIDENCE

“A Coincidence is a small miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”  -- Unknown

“Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys.” -- Emma Bull

"Coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous."  -- Doris Lessing

"When you live your life with an appreciation of Coincidences and their meanings, you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities."  -- Deepak Chopra

 


SUBCHAPTER 05
- DESTINY

 

Ever since I finished reading Autobiography of a Yogi, I have given the subject of Destiny a lot of thought.  For a while there in college, I was seriously depressed because it seemed like I had no free will.  If everything is predestined, then why bother struggling all the time?  What will be, will be.  So I stopped studying.  God will take care of me.  The moment I saw my grades fall, I changed my mind.  I had no idea whether I had free will or not, but for my life to work, I needed to assume I was still the captain of my own ship.  So I resumed my disciplined life. 

As it turns out, the esteemed physicist Stephen Hawking agrees with my conclusion.

"I have noticed something curious.  Even people who claim everything is predestined and that we can do nothing to change it still look before they cross the road."


When I was 6, my father and I shared a very frightening moment.  This incident took place about six months after I had accidentally sliced my eye open with a kitchen knife.  Dad had recently been transferred to Houston from Bethesda, Maryland, by his company. 

Six months after I cut my eye out, Dad took me to a carnival.  I was five at the time and still walking around with a giant patch over my left eye.  The doctors were still trying to save the eye, but it seemed unlikely.

The funny thing was that my father had lost his left eye too about the same age.  Dad was walking home from school when a brick had fallen off a wall and hit him in the eye.  The brick should have just hit him on top of his head, but for some reason he had looked up at the exact moment to cause that much damage.

Now my father was spooked that I had suffered a similar fate.  Dad was a big Edgar Cayce fan.  Thanks to Edgar Cayce, Dad believed in Fate.  He was certain that some unseen entity had pushed that brick off the wall and made him look up.  Unfortunately I was too young to understand what he was talking about.

Today's plan was for me to have fun for a while.  Afterwards, we were going to go watch a stock car contest on a race track located behind the carnival.  Dad let me play games for a while - ring toss, baseball toss, haunted house, house of mirrors, etc.  However, after an hour of this, Dad became impatient and said it was time to go see the stock car show.  I could have cared less about the car racing, but a deal's a deal, so I tagged along without protest. 

As we began making our way to the race track, I could hear the loud roar of the powerful car engines, but I couldn't see them.  The cars were hidden behind an eight foot wooden fence.  The drivers warmed up their cars by barreling around the track.  The loud roars of these powerful machines were actually quite frightening to me because we were very close.  The fence was ten feet to the left of our sidewalk.   Those thunderous roars made it clear one edge of the oval racetrack was on the other side of that fence. 

Suddenly I stopped in my tracks.  A whim had crossed my mind.  I had just noticed a game where I could shoot wooden ducks with an air rifle using corks for bullets.  Don't ask me why, but I suddenly had an irresistible urge to play. 

I tugged on my father's arm and pointed with my other hand.  "Dad, let me play that game!"

Dad said, "No, Rick, you've had enough."

But I wouldn't take no for answer.  I refused to let go of his arm. 

"C'mon, Dad.  One last game, please??"

Just as the word 'please' left my mouth, we were startled by the horrible sound of a loud crash.  We had been standing there debating for no more than 8 seconds when we were jolted by a crash on our left.  Since we were both blind in our left eyes, we had no peripheral vision.  As we whirled our heads in panic, we screamed as an enormous metal race car came hurtling straight at us.  There was no time to react.  

The flimsy wooden fence had not slowed the powerful car one bit.  Now something caused the car to leave the ground.  It was literally flying directly towards us at jet speed.  There was no time to step back.  We were sitting ducks.  To my shock, the car missed us.  Right before my eyes, the car flew past me.  The car was so close I could have touched it as it went by.  It missed killing us by at most a foot. The displaced air knocked us both down with a rush. 

A moment later the car crashed violently into a telephone pole ten feet to my right.  The impact was brutal; the driver was killed instantly.  He had paid the ultimate price for losing control of his car.  As we scrambled to our feet, we heard a snapping sound.  We stared in horror as the phone pole broke in two and collapsed on top of the crumpled car.

Dad was in shock.  I was too.  I couldn't get over that poor lifeless driver slumped over the wheel in the car, so I started to cry.

Dad stared at me funny.  He had the weirdest look on his face.

"Son, if you hadn't stopped me, we would both be dead now."


Why was I spared that day?  Was it luck or was it an angel?   Did some unseen entity put that thought in my mind to cause me to hesitate?  I ask again: How much actual control do we have over our lives?  

It has been over 2,500 years since the Trojan War, but I am always surprised at how many people seem to believe in Destiny today just as the Greeks did.  From time to time, I ask people what they think about Destiny.  To my surprise, many people nod a quiet acceptance.  Almost to a person, they agree some things happen for a reason.  They aren't quite sure exactly what is going on, but there are mysteries to Life that leave them wondering.  No matter how much Science has done to explain the laws of nature, today many people remain just as superstitious as the Greeks were. 

I cannot prove anything that Yogananda says, but I definitely believe there is more to this world than I can even imagine.  Based on a lifetime of observation, I have come to believe that every now and then, certain events really do happen for a reason.
 

When I was in high school, there was a young man named George.  George was tall, handsome, and athletic.  He was also funny.  George made people laugh.  I envied George more than any other boy in school.  While I hung back in the shadows to hide my throbbing, acne-covered face from view, George basked in the sunlight.  George had that gift known as popularity.  George had an easy-going charm that made him irresistible.  Wherever George went, I noticed there was a flock of pretty girls who followed alongside.  The girls laughed and smiled at his every word.  Considering how lonely I was and how ugly I felt, what I wouldn't have given to have that kind of charm and popularity.  I wanted to trade places with George in the worst possible way. 

One night in a close football game against Kinkaid, our main rival, the ball carrier tried to sweep around the end with two blockers in front of him.  George was playing left end on defense.  When he saw the two blockers, George saw an opening between them.  He made an instantaneous decision.  George recklessly threw his body directly through the narrow gap between the two blockers.  One blocker hit George high, the other hit George low.  They broke his neck.  As I watched George lie motionless on the field, take a guess how much I wanted to switch places after that. 

His father was the team physician.  I cannot imagine the pain of watching one's son being broken in half.  His son would never walk again.   

I will never forget that moment.  The memory is still vivid.  I started to cry the moment I saw the accident.  It broke my heart.  George lived the remainder of his life in a wheel chair.  All it takes is an illness or an accident.  One drunk driver or a madman with a gun and our lives could change in the blink of an eyelash.


One would think here in modern times that most people would scoff at the thought that our lives are controlled by unseen hands.  What insane thought crossed George's mind to make him launch his body in that dangerous attempt to tackle the ball carrier?  Again I ask... do we really know where impulsive thoughts come from? 

I am well aware the readers of this book will wonder just how good my grip on reality might be.  All I can say is that I am considered level-headed by most.  To me there are simply too many unexplained things in this world not to wonder. 

Nor do I think I am the only one who is curious.   When strange things happen, there are many people like myself who cannot help but wonder if some unusual opportunity or accident had our name on it.   Have you ever noticed that the English language is replete with phrases that reflect the same helplessness the Greeks must have felt? 

"His time was up." 

"It was meant to be." 

"God's will." 

"That bullet had his name on it."

"What are you doing here of all places?"

"A fateful event." 

"An angel on his shoulder."

"There are no accidents." 

"His prayers were answered."

"It was in the stars."
 

Nor is the belief in Destiny limited to English.  In Arabic, it is known as Kismet.  In German, Shicksal.  In Spanish, it is Que Sera.  Every language has a word for Destiny

Is there such a thing as Prophecy?  Did Nostradamus really predict the fire of London, the French Revolution, and rise of Hitler?  Did Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet, really see the past lives of two thousand people?

I contend that deep down, most of us suspect we are at the mercy of powers greater than ourselves.   We can't prove it and we know it is irrational to feel this way, but some part of our brain just can't seem to shake the suspicion. 

Could it be that we all have a Destiny?   What if there is Reincarnation?  What if each life is meant to follow a script of sorts?  What if each incarnation is meant to be a new series of opportunities to learn lessons, acquire new abilities, develop our consciousness and learn compassion for others?

Please be aware I do not present these ideas as 'Fact'.  These ideas are merely my speculation, not something I have any direct knowledge on.  I am neither psychic nor prophet.  I am not 'enlightened' in any way.  No angel has ever revealed themselves to me nor have I heard voices.  I am merely a normal guy who has spent his entire life asking questions about life's mysteries. 

Destiny is the story of how my dance career unfolded. In this book, I will carefully recount the lucky breaks, unusual coincidences and long-shot gambles that led me to create my dance studio against all odds.   I suppose each particular event in and of itself is no big deal.  But when viewed as part of a collection, a picture will emerge that resembles a series of stepping stones.  These seemingly unconnected events draw a path.  I hope my stories will help explain my conclusion that there was no way I could have accomplished this amazing climb on my own.  Someone was helping me behind an invisible curtain.  To me, there is no better explanation. 

Many people believe in Fate.  I am one of them.  But please don't expect me to prove it.  I am powerless to do that.  Fate, Luck, Reincarnation and Coincidence are concepts that are not susceptible to rigorous proof.  No doubt a scientist or statistician can come up with all sorts of explanations for my uncanny streak of luck.  On the other hand, we all know from time to time things happen that science simply cannot explain to our satisfaction.  When people look at the long odds, they shake their heads in confusion because science doesn't have a good answer.

Yes, like everyone else, I would like to find proof of the existence of God.  Wouldn't it be nice if God would appear regularly on the talk shows and explain the Mysteries of the Universe to us?  But it doesn't work like that.  So I am forced to look for subtle clues instead.

I have written this book to offer my testimony on why I believe in Destiny.  My story will not prove anything, but it will make people think.  This book is about Life's mysteries.  I suspect that after reading my story, even some of the skeptics will begin to wonder if there is more to this world than meets the eye.

I hope you enjoy my book.

Rick Archer

 


PART ONE: FAILURE

Chapter ONE: COLORADO STATE

 

   
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