There are no manuals or ‘how to’s for life. There are trends and cycles and themes which persist and at times repeat but nothing which is happening now has ever truly happened before. Even an identical event happening only a few years, or even a few moments, apart is not truly identical because the world and people experiencing it are not the same. People’s experiences, perspectives, and capabilities change. Technologies, circumstances, and resources change. To borrow from the proverb, dipping the same stick in the same river twice is not possible. The waters have moved on so the river is no longer the same, the stick is already wet and so is also no longer the same.
This does not mean we go into every moment of our lives blind and empty handed. Through the accumulation of experiences, both our own and those of others, we are able to make educated guesses and predictions about potential cause-and-effect outcomes. The stick will likely make the same splashing noise and the river will not likely be suddenly twice as deep but something unforeseen could still happen to change the outcome in unexpected ways. An unnoticed flaw in the stick might cause it to split or a rock in the riverbed might tumble away exposing lose mud for the stick to sink into.
The more experience we have with sticks the more likely we might be to spot any such flaws or weaknesses and the more knowledgeable about streams and rivers we are the more accurate our predictions might be about how the materials in them will behave. The simpler the scenario the easier it is to make more accurate predictions but we can never know all possible factors and all possible outcomes. There is always room for some aspect or ingredient, however small and insignificant it may seem at first, to completely alter our anticipated outcome.
And if we were to allow, for the sake of argument, that we did in fact know about every possible factor that does not mean we would be in control of them all. It is even less possible to control all factors than it is to know about them.
Even if we were using complex dependable machinery to control the direction and speed of the river, recycling the same water…