Randomness is a very big factor in our lives. The problem is that, by its nature, we can’t count on it happening. Sometimes random events happen that make us happy — those coincidences like when you are just thinking of a client you haven’t seen in months and he walks in the locker room of Equinox. That happened to me last week.

Other times, the randomness leads to not so happy events like a fender-bender I experienced when a stupid college student decided to put her car in reverse and backed into my new Lexus.

Looking at the horrific videos that are coming out of Japan how can we not wonder if and when it will be us. When the first news reports were made, I was blissfully asleep, but my phone started vibrating anxiously. The East Coast  was hearing about the massive quake and I started to receive warning phone calls about the coming tsunami, at 3 a.m.

I awoke and checked out the news only to find that the warning for the Santa Monica coast was for an expected 3 foot surge in wave height. Hardly enough for some surfers to even get out of bed.

Heading down to the beach I figured that an estimated 3 foot swell from an undersea earthquake about 5,000 miles away was probably not going to be a major event. From the safety of the Loews Hotel pool deck, I watched as runners cruised along the water’s edge.

In the air were the usual suspects of seagulls and terns, along with helicopters from the Coast Guard, the  police, L.A. County Lifeguards and a news outlet. There was a rescue boat just off the coast, and other than that, it was a gorgeous blue sky day and everyone seemed to be going about their lives as usual.

We were lucky, it remained as beautiful and peaceful a day as it started. No real damage was reported in Santa Monica Bay, unlike the major damage that occurred in Crescent City and Santa Cruz. Boats were sunk, piers were damaged and the Governor declared a state of emergency in four Northern California counties.

But that’s the random factor at work. Why should a boat owner in Santa Cruz have his boat sunk by a natural event like an undersea earthquake 5,000 miles away, and my partner’s boat is peacefully moored in the Dolphin Marina, unharmed? There’s no explanation for it. No sense of morality or justice is at play, it’s the classic Forrest Gump line, “S*&t happens.”

Try as we may to buy insurance, plot out our lives, make the “right” choices, avoid the “stupid decisions” and work hard to protect our children, the fact of the matter is that life is full of random events — some good, some bad.

And the unspoken truth of the matter is that for the most part, we have no real idea whether something is good or bad until we can view it in hindsight. We need perspective on events to know the proper characterization of them. Frequently, our first reactions to an event prove to be the emotional reaction, which is usually rooted in fear. It’s an old, very old, genetic predisposition of the “fight or flight response.” And while it is useful when faced with the risk of being eaten by a saber toothed tiger, it serves us much more poorly today.

As humans we need to put the events of our lives in context. The bigger the event, the bigger the context. But some events are so big that we must use all our resources to find the right context.

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami are having, and will continue to have for years, a huge impact on their society. In ours, it was but a good day for surfing. I say that not to minimize the human loss, but to recognize that we must be aware that there is human loss.

The tsunami devastated homes and buildings up to six miles inland, the death toll is still climbing and the rebuilding will go on for a decade. Our tsunami warning was cancelled after five hours.

Why Japan and not California? Why Crescent City and Santa Cruz and not Santa Monica and Marina del Rey? It’s a total crap shoot. A roll of the dice.

Can we prepare for it happening here? Not really. There’s no preparing for the devastation that occurred in Japan. So much of it was a result of the tsunami that no amount of preparation could prevent the damage that happened.

So, enjoy today, be grateful you live where you do, but be mindful of those who suffered a loss, that just as likely could have been us.


David Pisarra is a divorce attorney who specializes in father’s rights and men’s issues with the firm of Pisarra &  Grist in Santa Monica. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or (310) 664-9969.


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