Sliding doors of fate – or hand of God?

A lot of people I know explain away the highs and lows of their personal journey as being “fate” and any other strange happenings along the way as the mysterious workings of “the universe”, but can we believe in fate or the power of the universe without believing in god?


Let’s face it, we really don’t understand everything about life, the universe and everything, in fact the human race is befuddled by much of it.

Questions like “how did I get here?“, “is there life on other planets?“, and “why’s my back all wet?” are as perplexing today as they were a thousand years ago.

Whether you’re an evolutionist (we jumped down from the trees so we could stand up straight, build cities and start wars), or creationist (God in his wisdom planted millions of years worth of archeological evidence for us to find so he could test our faith), you can’t really claim to have all the answers mankind craves.

Either way, you have to admit that many of these can be explained by pure science. If you trip on a dodgy footpath and scrape your knee, God did not trip you over – he has better things to do, like cyclones, earthquakes and droughts. No, your unfortunate fall was clearly the fault of physics and an incompetent local council.

Other events are circumstantial and a bit harder to explain, but may just be some sort of variant of the chaos theory – billions of people wandering around on our planet and just as many random situations that have to happen to someone.

I’ve had two sliding door moments in my life (that I’m aware of) that made me think about this theory.

The first was in late July 1991. I was staying in a hotel on Miami beach, with plans to get the overnight train north to Washington DC. The train left daily at 2pm, but my frustratingly slow taxi seemed to catch every red light on what was a far longer drive than I had anticipated, and my being on that day’s train seemed unlikely – I would have to get the following day’s service. Suddenly traffic opened up, and before I knew it I was running
along side a moving train, throwing my bags up to a helpful passenger and jumping up before it picked up speed, just like you see in the movies.

A few day’s later I saw on the news that the following day’s train had derailed somewhere in South Carolina, killing 7 people and injuring 125.

Obviously I felt for those people and their families, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind how close I myself had been to being on that particular train. A single red light or longer queue at the ticket office would have done it.

The second moment happened in early 1999, and was even spookier.

My (pregnant) wife and I were driving home one night from our local shopping centre. For pure entertainment value I’d love to say we’d been scouring the neighbourhood in search of fried dim sims and pickled walnuts, but reality is often a little more banal than the Hollywood script of our life.

We waited impatiently at a long red light just around the corner from our house, at an intersection that was built up enough on several corners as to obscure my view. There were no other cars around. The light turned green, but instead of hitting the accelerator like I would normally do, my brain simply froze for a few seconds – noticeably long enough for my wife to look across at me and give me that “…well?” look that wives do so well.

Zoom! A speeding taxi drove straight through the red light at 70-80kmh, oblivious to all. But for my inexplicable pause, the timing would have been perfect. The three of us – my wife, myself and our unborn daughter would have been wiped out.

Either some greater power had other plans for us, or it just wasn’t our time.

So who introduces and controls these sliding doors moments?

For the sake of my friends who are either devotedly christian or strongly atheist,
I’m going to sit on the fence for this one, but would love to hear anyone else’s stories.

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