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This Post Will Change Your Life

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At breakfast one morning, on a silent retreat in Nanaimo, my friend Marc was looking out the window at a lawn sprinkler when he glimpsed a tiny detail he would later write about.  

The sprinkler was the ratchet kind, the sort that goes “chh-chh-chh-chh” as it rotates and shoots water, then winds itself back up and does it again. At one particular position in its arc, one particular “chh,” he saw a little rainbow flash across the spray and disappear.

Presumably I was elsewhere in that same room at this time, no rainbows in sight, contemplating my boiled egg and muffin.

He wrote a blog post about the momentary rainbow, describing it as a perfect example of something contemplatives call dependent arising—the idea that every phenomenon emerges from the vast sea of causes and conditions that came before it.

In other words, things don’t happen out of nowhere. For example, it isn’t just randomly hot today. It’s hot because certain conditions converged to give rise to that hotness. Certain air masses moved in certain ways last week, and now a big, humid gross one is lying across my little prairie city like a giant tongue.

For Marc’s momentary rainbow to happen, many conditions had to come together in precise ways. It only emerged at a particular moment in the sprinkler’s cycle, at a certain time of day. It happened only for Marc, because only his eyes were in the right place at the right time for the experience we call a “rainbow” to happen. (All rainbows involve at least one retina, a water-bearing planet, and usually a star.)

The right position for that retina, and therefore the emergence of the rainbow, depended not just on the angles of the sprinkler and planet and sun, but seemingly tangential conditions such as what was for breakfast. The buffet line moves quicker when it’s boiled eggs rather than scrambled, changing how many window seats are taken by the coffee-only people by the time you’ve made yourself a plate.

The fact that the rainbow struck my friend as remarkable depended on his having studied Buddhist practice for a number of years. And that factor must have depended on many, many contingent events and thoughts, not just in Marc’s life but in the lives of many other people. Who wrote what books when. Who brought what ideas where. How credible they sounded when they expressed them.

One of the involved people must have been the historical Buddha, or whoever taught what is now attributed to him.

It matters then, at least to Marc, and to me, and now you—in however small a way—that one day twenty-six centuries ago, something sufficiently disturbed a Nepali prince for him to sit under a tree (or whatever really happened) and resolve to figure out why we human beings suffer so much. You could not have arrived at this particular moment of your life—in which you are reading this blog post—without that one.

How that flash of rainbow in that yard on Vancouver island will affect your day, or your life, or the next millennium of Western civilization, no one can say. Maybe you’ll write something of your own. Or maybe you’ll quit reading blogs. Maybe I’ll see you on retreat one day. (Or maybe a falling A/C unit will miss you now.)

Every single thing that happens to you—your career, your ideas, your friends, your living situation—emerged into reality from its many parent conditions just like that rainbow did. In fact, nothing happens any other way: conditions give rise to a thing that wasn’t there, it’s there for a while, and then it disappears back into the mist of causality.

Appreciating all this helps us remember the abundance of possibility we’re always living in. Our worries and expectations only account for what we can see from here. Meanwhile, the future that will actually emerge will consist mostly of things we never thought to think about.

Think about any one of your good friends. Could you have possibly foreseen this person, and all they’ve brought to your life, before they emerged into it?

Impossible. But we do know that more unique and unforeseeable people are on the way.

One such friend of mine is, among other things, a performance artist. She’s halfway through eight performances at this year’s Fringe Festival. Each show is completely improvised and different than the last. They’re based on her life experiences, primarily experiences of pain and trauma, and how that trauma is passed down generationally. She just lets the words come to her in the moment, onstage.

The night I went, there were a dozen or so mutual friends and acquaintances in the audience. The lights dimmed. Her performance emerged, never to be seen again. We were moved.

Then it was over and we were all standing around talking. Somebody suggested we go for a drink. I had been planning to go to bed early—the night before, I had eaten dessert too late and couldn’t sleep—but after the play I felt closer to this group of people and said sure.

It was a gorgeous night. We hung out and idly chatted at Old Market Square. I’m really glad I went. We made plans to get together again for tabletop games one day next month.

However that day goes, new things will emerge from it, which will sow their own seeds, and so on.

As far as I understand it, life always works this way, whether we recognize it or not. Life is nothing but moments, and every moment is nothing but another culmination of the universe’s incalculable ripples. Out where we can’t see, they’re crossing and merging, bringing toward us new forms and experiences that are almost perfectly unpredictable.

Yet the way we think about life seldom reflects that reality. We plan and worry and forecast and dread, all with an absurd sense of certainty, like we’re setting up snooker shots and we can see all the balls.

I hope I’ll remember how ridiculous that is, every sprinkler I see. Thanks Marc.


Five Reasons to Join Us at Camp Calm This Summer

  1. You can begin, today, a rich new chapter of your life that you didn’t know was coming up.
  2. You could make new friends whom in 25 years you will have known for 25 years.
  3. You can discover more of the “rainbows” that await you in ordinary moments.
  4. You appreciate my odd way of explaining things and want me to teach you mindfulness skills.
  5. You might just become more peaceful and at ease than you currently believe is possible for you.

A wonderful crew of Campers is already gathering. Start making friends with the present moment, today.

[Take me to Camp!]


michael smit July 24, 2019 at 10:05 pm


I disagree. Your friends appreciation of the rainbow did not necessarily depend on that specific event 2600 years ago. My corollary is agriculture, it rose independently among human groups living on separate continents. Perhaps it was a different event that influenced your friend, or no event at all, just simply looking in the right direction at the right time, and in a mental state able to appreciate it. But perhaps I am wrong and the common event in the agriculture argument is that all groups were human. This stuff is hard.

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 10:51 am

Hmmm.. It’s hard to imagine how my friend would have seen that sprinkler at a retreat center on a Buddhist retreat and thought of dependent arising and wrote about it on an Buddhist insight meditation blog had there not been a Buddha. Even if a different person somehow had the same (rather sophisticated) insights, it’s hard to believe the subsequent events would have occurred in the same way. If it develops in a different place, at a different time, in a different language, expressed by a different person with a different life, it seems completely impossible for the same delicate set of conditions to arise two thousand years later.

Agriculture doesn’t work as an analogy because agriculture is not a specific event arising from certain contingent conditions, it is a concept: planting things on purpose. It is billions of different events happening in different places. Even if the concept we call agriculture arose many times independently, they are not the same thing happening on the experiential level. All the details are different, it’s only the concept we use to categorically describe all instances of “a person planting something to eat” that is the same.

Jane Axell July 25, 2019 at 1:41 am

Love it, thanks David. We are but seeing a tiny piece if the jigsaw all the time. How can we really understand the whole? The present moment and trust is all we have. I’ve found it works out

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 10:54 am

Exactly… we think we know the whole, pretty much, but we just don’t. Simply trying to imagine the friends we haven’t met yet, and realizing it’s impossible, makes this clear again.

DiscoveredJoys July 25, 2019 at 3:10 am

I enjoyed this post. I’ve learned new insights of ‘dependent arising’. This could also be known as determinism… but with so much of the causes and effects hidden from our comprehension there will be many people who fill the explanatory gap with supernatural explanations or philosophical constructs like certain types of free will.

I expect there will be a pushback from people who take their feelings at face value – as we must all do to some extent to live practical lives.

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 10:59 am

Yes, there is an explanatory gap, and we want to fill it with something we can make sense of. I like the Buddhist approach of using the mysterious catch-all “causes and conditions” to describe the unknown influences that give rise to what happens in our lives.

Determinism is a whole rabbit hole of its own, and I’m not sure if it necessarily follows from dependent arising. I’m sure there are tons of think pieces on it. Things arise from causes and conditions, but we don’t quite know how that conditioning works, and there may be room for free will of some sort, but that’s all hidden in that explanatory gap you mentioned.

There’s also a whole discussion about karma, but I didn’t want to get into that. Basically, that our actions are a huge source of influence on the world, and whether or not they arise from free will, our choices matter enormously to how life unfolds for every conscious creature.

David Topple July 25, 2019 at 3:59 am

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed that anything which is the case has been produced by a set of conditions which are sufficient for making it the case. The thing thus produced therefore follows from these conditions by necessity.

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:00 am

I’ve been meaning to read Schopenhauer. All I know about him is that he was a western philosopher who was influenced by Buddhism. Any reading recommendations?

elisa July 25, 2019 at 6:38 am

Lovely. Thank you. Reminds me of Sam Harris’s work about free will — the fact that it is an illusion, given that none of the circumstances we find ourselves in, large or small scale, were chosen by us, making it impossible to choose other than we have chosen or will choose. It’s difficult to wrap your mind around, but this post helps me think about that.

Also makes me think of the time about a decade ago when I saw a comet race through the atmosphere in a hot greenish whitish flash, just out of the corner of my eye through the windshield while driving. I felt to lucky to be in the right place at the right time to have caught that.

And if this is your first “Let’s Talk Like We Used To,” yes, let’s.

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:02 am

Free will is a topic I don’t think I’ve written about, though I’m familiar with Sam Harris’s take on it and it’s hard to argue with. It’s difficult because even if you agree with it it’s hard to know what to do with it.

Anyway, this is the kind of stuff I love to talk about :)

Francis Hicks July 25, 2019 at 6:50 am

Thanks, David. It seems to me that all of life is experience. The odds of our existence are infinitesimal. And yet, the universe is so huge, we’re here. Great post. Great way to talk like we used to

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:04 am

Thanks Francis. I agree — life is nothing but experience, and there are a lot of implications to that: there are no things, only experiences; there is no self; nothing is permanent… it seems like much of Buddhism stems directly from that insight.

Rocky July 25, 2019 at 7:01 am

I’m with you David !
In the film “History of The Eagles”
Joe Walsh said something like “When you’re young it seems like random events and people are colliding in a very chaotic manner….but when you’re older , in hindsight, it all fits together
like a finely crafted novel.”
It’s a perfect world…..

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:09 am

Ah interesting… I wonder if the quality that allows us to see how it fits is wisdom, which I’ve always interpreted as a growing understanding of how things work… what causes what.

Devin July 25, 2019 at 7:09 am

David I agree, with an added thought.

I think the other element here is that we’re deciding what is significant and what is not. The rainbow, the chance friend encounter, we declare these things as ‘special’. The trillion things that we never noticed or that didn’t happen in that moment…never accounted for, unknowable, or not deemed special.

The same complex chain of causality can lead to a special moment like spying a rainbow, or to stepping in a fresh pile of dog crap. Or let’s take something ‘less significant’, like a leaf falling from a tree in a deep forest. Nobody saw it, nobody cares, meaningless. Or so we say.

Take the most prized hand in poker, the vaulted Royal Flush. 10-J-Q-K-A of, say, hearts. Rare, beautiful, and powerful.

However, it’s equally as rare to be dealt precisely the 3 of hearts, 5 of diamonds, 8 of clubs, 9 of spades, and Queen of hearts. Although the 3-5-8-9-Q hand is not one we’ll see James Bond pick up when he’s playing against an evil mastermind.

The odds of being dealt any exact combination of five cards is the same. Only some are special, because we’ve decided it’s so.

So I wonder – maybe the secret is to see everything as special? Or nothing?

Maybe it’s enough to remember that not only are most experiences the result of forces outside of our control (and comprehension), but we’re also applying deep filters to our moment-by-moment experience; continually creating stories about what things mean, and whether they are good, bad, significant or not.

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:14 am

For sure.. How we attribute meaning to what happens is definitely a big part of how things happen. And it’s not really separate from the causes and conditions. Marc’s interpretation of his experience stemmed from his prior experiences, just as whether or not the reader of this article knows the english language will greatly influence how it affects them.

I know that being on retreat, you’re meditating all the time, so you’re much more observant than normal, and your mind makes connections much more easily and with much more clarity. You can see something, and then a moment later, notice the thought that was summoned by the sight. It’s really quite powerful.

Rodrigo Borba July 25, 2019 at 8:25 am

I just love essays about existencialism like that.
Life is just a wonderful journey isn’t it?

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:16 am

Yes. I want to remember to see it that way: unpredictable unfolding, before my eyes.

Wallet July 25, 2019 at 8:32 am

Hey David!

Thanks for the post. :)

I appreciated this perspective, but something I’ve been working on recently is divesting in history in order to more fully invest in being present here in this moment. If everything is explained by causality, we can give away all our responsibility and free will, which is both boring and untrue (although I’m not suggesting you’re taking it that far – Alan Watts and the Garden of Eden come to mind).

I think events can spontaneously spring into existence, free will and choice have the power to depart in some ways from this “endless chain of causal events” (although I understand the argument can be made as well that even the departure is the result of another chain of causal events… oh well lol), and it’s possible even without the Buddha, your friend may have ended up seeing that rainbow!

That being said, I also like the idea that “everything that has ever happened had to happen exactly as it did in order to conspire to bring us here to this very moment”, and your comment of the Buddha having to have sat under that tree in order for this moment to occur brought a smile to my face. The infinite possibilities of the universe are such wonderful food for thought!


David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:27 am

There are so many side-avenues these ideas can go down, and they’re all so interesting.

On history — the interesting thing to me is that any sense of history is just more present moment mental activity. We can’t experience the past except through present moment experience, including memory, fantasy, inference, etc. So in my mind the key is really training the mind to recognize all of life as present moment experience, including the mental mapping we do that we call the past. And with that comes the kind of freedom you’re referring to.

Free will is another can of worms. In my understanding of dependent arising, I’m not sure if free will is recognized or denied, but they do talk a lot about the consequences of our choices and behavior on the causes and conditions in the world. Clearly our choices bear fruit of one kind or another for ourselves and many other people, whether or not we are ultimately authoring our intentions or if they are somehow caused upstream of consciousness. So I think we can act as though we do have free will and that will lead to better choices.

That richness of possibility you talk about is the point of all this for me. We have some capacity to anticipate the future, but we have much more confidence in it than it deserves. It’s a relief that the future will bear things we can’t see in our minds.

Vicki Atkins July 25, 2019 at 9:14 am

The older I get the more I realize this about the relationships with the people in my life. Some are deeper, some more fleeting, and at the beginning of them you have no way of knowing how they will affect the remainder of your life. Sometimes people you wouldn’t credit with a lot of influence can affect meaningful changes in us. I think about this phenomena often.
I am very pleased you decided to talk like we used to… I smile every time I see Raptitude in my inbox, and that is before I have read it!
Thanks for writing.
On a side note, I particularly like the title of this essay ;)

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:30 am

Aw I’m glad you liked it. This is the kind of stuff that goes through my head all the time and I somehow became afraid to share it, because I know not everyone can relate.

Thinking about the people in our lives really awakens this insight for me. There is not a single person in your life whom you could have pictured in any meaningful way before they entered your life. And the future holds, among many other things, new people like that. I love that thought, and it short-circuits any sense that we can see the future in any way except in the broadest strokes.

David Topple July 25, 2019 at 9:16 am

‘Life is nothing but moments, and every moment is nothing but another culmination of the universe’s incalculable ripples. Out where we can’t see, they’re crossing and merging, bringing toward us new forms and experiences that are almost perfectly unpredictable.’

Another thought on that observation: I noticed years ago that a lot of the experiences I’d had during my life which could either be described as emotionally painful, or the opposite, were all bizarre accidents I could neither have planned nor anticipated.

‘We plan and worry and forecast and dread, all with an absurd sense of certainty, like we’re setting up snooker shots and we can see all the balls.’ Aren’t we stupid?

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:32 am

It’s really odd — worry is all about trying to address painful experiences that we somehow think could be on the way. Painful experiences are certainly on the way, but they’ll be different than that, because we can only fear what we’ve already experiences. Similar things can happen, but never the same things.

Tim Crosby July 25, 2019 at 8:50 pm

I’ve heard this pre-worry referred to as “beforemath” (as opposed to the “aftermath” fretting we nay indulge in after an every); and, recognizing it as such helps me stop it and return to a more open present.

David Topple July 25, 2019 at 9:23 am

Notwithstanding my comments above, it might be useful to remember this:
‘apples fall unpredictably into your lap, but it is more likely to happen if you stand in the orchard and shake a tree’. (Charles Handy, ‘The Elephant and the Flea’, London, 2001)

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:33 am

A similar meditation-scene saying I like is “Enlightenment is an accident, but meditation makes you accident-prone.”

Mark July 25, 2019 at 9:53 am

To add more astonishment and complexity to the mix, neuroscientists like David Linden and David Eagleman tell us that our senses only take in roughly 2% of an experience consciously. 98% is taken in unconsciously.

Go here if you want a breakdown by sensory mode: https://thefloweringbrain.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/sensory-awareness-info-bits-breakdown/

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:36 am

Whoa that is crazy… My primary meditation influence, Shinzen Young, talks about what happens in advanced stages of meditation practice — he believes that the threshold of conscious experience lowers, until you start to become aware of a certain level of neural pre-processing that is normally under the waterline. So you get the sensation of actually seeing the moment of emergence of sense experiences, and therefore you can begin to see the emptiness, or non-experience that precedes it. This state has been known for centuries, but only now they’re beginning to try to figure out what it is in neurological terms. It’s an interesting time to be alive for people interested in the mind.

Susan O. July 25, 2019 at 9:59 am

I’ve been thinking about this same idea a lot lately. A tumbleweed rolling across the highway takes me by surprise. It seems so random, so unpredictable. Yet it is operating by predictable forces in our universe such that if I knew everything there was to know about that plant (form, root depth, age etc.) and everything there was to know about forces acting on it (wind speed, gravity etc.), its presence at that exact moment wouldn’t seem so random after all. But being only human after all, I can’t know everything and so am surprised. Add to that my being there at that exact same moment, seeing it, thinking about it years later, writing about it today, and perhaps affecting some aspect of the future by doing so. Cause and effect indeed; a thread that connects everything from at least the big bang to the future, all here in this only time we have, the present moment.
Thank you David for providing such great food for thought.

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:42 am

Tumbleweed is such a colorful example… so many things influence it and it influences so many things. How much water it was exposed to at different times must change the length of its tendrils, changing its path across the plains of wyoming, changing who sees it from the highway. The sight of it will evoke different thoughts in different people because they’ve seen different western films and have different emotions tied to them. And so it goes.

John Norris July 25, 2019 at 3:10 pm

For me, tumbleweed evokes the Big Lebowski :)

Rob Thilo July 25, 2019 at 10:27 am

To be aware that each moment arises “equally” (not that each is the same) points to equanimity. The teaching summarized in seven words: “Everything changes, everything is connected, pay attention.” Letting go! Gratitude! All conditioned things are arising and passing away. understanding this deeply brings the greatest happiness: peace.

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 11:47 am

Good to hear from you Rob.

Equanimity is such a powerful quality, and I love that way of getting at it. Pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral experiences all arise the same way and can be seen without greed, aversion, and delusion, and if they are, equanimity arises. The possibility of cultivating equanimity like this is such a little-known aspect of human experience (relatively speaking) and I want to see it become more widely known and more accessible to our species.

Thassa July 25, 2019 at 10:46 am

Hi David,

This brought a genuine smile to my face. When I was inquiring into dependent origination several years ago, I’d chosen a poolside spot on which to read and contemplate. I noticed a snail struggling to remain on the pool’s inner edge, despite the ripples (to the snail, giant waves!) threatening to knock him off and into the pool. When I looked across the pool to find out where these monster waves were coming from, I noticed a young girl gently swinging her leg with no awareness that the gentle sway was the cause for such havoc for the tiny thing.

Suddenly, I thought about the moment. If she had come earlier or later in the day, would the snail have been there? If he had climbed out sooner would he be safe? What brought her to the pool at that hour? Her parents? And her parents existed because of their parents, and then the Earth, the solar system, the universe. (All of this happened without words, just a WHOOSH.)

Anyway, it became so obvious that absolutely no thing is as it is in a vacuum. Did the girl exist without my observation? Did the snail? And what about this story?

Life is so precious in that way.

Thassa July 25, 2019 at 10:49 am

I forgot to mention that yes, it did change my life.

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 12:01 pm

The universe really is like a big WHOOSH, unfolding in infinite detail. All of the stuff that happens in our world — careers, tv shows, wars, snails climbing out of pools — apparently is detail unfolding in the midst of a great explosion, 14 billion years after it started.

Sujata July 25, 2019 at 11:09 am

Your friend saw a rainbow and probably went into present moment at that moment. You were also perhaps in present moment while enjoying your boiled egg.

I am glad my dementic mind is not even trying to understand the rest of the highly intellectual post. ( freedom from thinking ! ) :)

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Not a bad kind of freedom!

Elizabeth Munroe July 25, 2019 at 12:35 pm

My intention this morning was to track down online somewhere to buy nice new sheets and towels, and yet this is what I am reading. Years ago I found a reference to your blog, I think on Mr. Money Mustache, and have followed your blog ever since. I call this zig-zag, which is a pleasant way to get a task done, though it sometimes results in getting a different task done than what was planned.

John Norris July 25, 2019 at 3:14 pm

MMM brought me here too. A 2014 article about crossing a parking lot…

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 8:17 pm

Happy to be the zag to your zig

Elizabeth Munroe July 26, 2019 at 11:47 am

The zag is always better than the zig. Though this morning, I did order some towels that I am very happy with, so the zig is moving along too.

Chris July 25, 2019 at 5:37 pm

I never comment, but feel compelled to this time. Thank you David, yet again, for pointing out the blindingly obvious in a manner that is piercingly insightful.

David Cain July 25, 2019 at 8:14 pm

Aw shucks Chris

Karen J July 25, 2019 at 11:22 pm

Dear David ~
I just watched a not-really-random YouTube about parts of this – that the chances of any one particular human being being born are 1:7,000,000,000,000!
I didn’t retain all the mass of variables that she talked about, but it DID help me to remember more often that I am an amazing phenomenon, merely for existing! And so are you, and your friend Marc, and my friend Angela, and the apparently drunk fellow on the bus, and the cop directing traffic, and everybody else and all their neighbors!
Bright Blessings!

David Cain July 26, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Thinking about the individual personalities of human beings really drives this home for me. They are just so incredibly unpredictable and distinct from each other.

Al July 26, 2019 at 4:47 am

So it could be said, that as a result of all the billions of events that have occurred, everything in the universe is exactly as it ‘should’ be at any given moment. If we stand far enough away, the system is working perfectly!

Whether we like it or not!

David Cain July 26, 2019 at 2:16 pm

Personally I try to avoid the word should in this case, because it has certain moral implications — whoever is suffering “should” be suffering, etc. But you could say that the unfolding of reality seems to be lawful in some sense. Things helplessly cause other things.

Al July 26, 2019 at 3:05 pm

You’re quite right David, I agree. That’s why I put it in inverted commas. Lawful or inevitable might well be better!

Minikins July 26, 2019 at 6:31 am

What a beautiful contemplation, thank you.

Irr July 26, 2019 at 11:34 am

I read this yesterday when I saw coming in my inbox, made me smile and tried to think or remember when did my life change like this?
Today I read it again, specially the final part, and came to the blog to read the comments, made me smile again.
I’ll share this in my blog, and wanna translate some parts into Spanish maybe to be able to quote you.
I came here via Rob Breszny some years ago.
And I also have a very dear friend who catches rainbows and other events with their camera, I wanna share your post with them :)

Kyla July 26, 2019 at 12:37 pm

I have to share this…I discovered Raptitude just yesterday (July 25th) and navigated to this particular post (I mean, how could that title not catch my eye). I love contemplating these sorts of things, and in recent years have found myself paying closer attention, and thus cultivating an appreciation, for the ripple moments of life unfolding.

Just this morning, I was out for a walk with my pup, and I ran into a dear friend who lives two blocks over from me walking her own dog. We hadn’t seen each other in over a week due to conflicting schedules, and neither of us have a set time or routine for walking in the mornings, so it felt like quite a nice surprise. We also have NEVER run into each other randomly; we’ve always had to coordinate schedules to walk together.

But that’s not all. Mere seconds before I turned around to see her, I walked past a house that had sprinklers going on the front lawn. In the mist of those sprinklers, I saw the watery rainbow, and thought immediately of this post and how fascinating it was to see this phenomenon just a day later.

This of course led to me sharing this insight with my friend, and telling her how much I appreciate her and our friendship, and how grateful I am for the experience of each moment, no matter how it unfolds.

Also to the comment from “Al”: one of my favorite mantras is “Everything is as it should be.” Your comment speaks to this just perfectly.

Kyla July 26, 2019 at 12:39 pm

And I just realized I used the word ‘randomly’ to describe how we have never run into each other before. It’s actually not random at all!

David Cain July 26, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Haha! Rainbows everywhere when we look for them, of both the actual and figurative kind.

Michelle July 26, 2019 at 2:04 pm

I love this! I often remind the performing groups I’m part of that we will be experiencing the music this way once; it will never happen again just this way. Of course it’s easy to think you’re repeating something when you never really are.

I’ll also refer us all to this song I heard within the hour I read this post, from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods:

Oh, if life were made of moments
Even now and then a bad one!
But if life were only moments
Then you’d never know you had one
[First a witch, then a child
Then a prince, then a moment
Who can live in the woods?
And to get what you wish
Only just for a moment
These are dangerous woods]
Let the moment go
Don’t forget it for a moment, though
Just remembering you’ve had an “and”
When you’re back to “or”
Makes the “or” mean more
Than it did before
Now I understand
And it’s time to leave the woods!

David Cain July 26, 2019 at 2:20 pm

Love the whimsy of this, thank you :)

Heather July 26, 2019 at 3:37 pm

As someone who used to battle really bad anxiety (and pretty much CURED it!!), I really love this. The thought of all the unique people I’ve yet to met who are going to make a huge impact on my life makes me want to cry tears of joy.

David Cain July 26, 2019 at 5:13 pm

Hi Heather — I’m curious how you cured your anxiety? I’ve made big strides with mine this last year, but I’m always interested to hear how people have addressed theirs.

Heather August 5, 2019 at 9:16 am

I’ve struggled with it for years until I learned about meditation and started practicing with that. Books like ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle and ‘The Untethered Mind’ were very helpful! Also, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is immensely powerful. There’s a phone app for meditation called Headspace that’s amazing for practicing meditation. It can be a little expensive for a subscription. But if you volunteer for awhile with Crisis Text Line (like a suicide hotline but through texting!) then you can get it for free ;) hopefully that promotion is still going!

Vijay July 28, 2019 at 9:35 pm

I would like to hear about it too, Heather.

Nicole July 27, 2019 at 8:48 am

It’s funny, I always save your post/emails for a time when I have the moment to focus and enjoy. Since I read a lot of emails just before bed (and after a sleeping pill), it might be a few days before I find that moment.
It turns out that I needed this post, at this moment. My husband was laid off yesterday, literally as I was moving my parents into their new home that they purchased half way across the country to be near us.
The panic that I have been feeling has been temporarily quieted after reading your post, reaffirming my belief that everything happens for a reason. Thank you for being that sprinkler rainbow for me in this moment.

Deborah LaPorte July 27, 2019 at 1:24 pm

If you watched yesterday’s stage of the Tour de France you will see this point exemplified: Julian Alaphillipe, terrific rider and strategist, the great hope of France, and the leading downhill racer of the tour was a real contender for the overall win — to be sealed in the steep downhill section late in the stage. However, a hale storm came up and blanketed the mountain areas. The race was called off for the rest of the day and results of the day’s race up until that moment were recorded and kept. This put Egan Bernal ahead of Alaphillipe who was surely laying back, saving energy, and planning the moment he charged ahead of everyone in that steep downhill to come.

Bethany July 27, 2019 at 9:24 pm

A gut punch of recognition.
I wish my response to your post was more erudite but too busy grappling the roilings of my lower guts.

Well thought. Well written.
I am kerfluffled. Damn it.

Kc July 28, 2019 at 6:53 am

New reader. Love your blog. Essentially Marc wrote about a rainbow. You wrote about Marc writing about a rainbow. Love it!

Letícia Bortolon July 30, 2019 at 11:52 am

I used to read you many years ago, but “lost” your track, distracted by uncountable internet information. I even forgot the blog name (bad, bad memory…) and just knew it was from “this guy from Canada” who beautifully writes about the things I like. But today I went into my almost abandoned Facebook account and went through all my liked pages to find you. And here I am. And here is this post, so meaningful to me at this exact moment of my life. Thank you for this. I wish I was in Canada to join Calm Camp. :)
Cheers, Leticia

David Cain July 30, 2019 at 12:45 pm

Glad you found your way back Leticia! Just to let you know, Camp Calm is a virtual retreat that lives on the web, so it’s available wherever you are: https://campcalm.com/about/

Vijay July 28, 2019 at 9:34 pm


Thanks for posting these articles. I cherish them for when I am down and need someone who I feel connects with me. I feel comfort when I read through them! I read in another article of yours, how you feel the pressure now that hundreds of thousands of views your articles get. Don’t. We love your posts for the free-form nature of it. At least I do :)


David Cain July 29, 2019 at 10:34 am

This makes me happy. Thanks Vijay :)

Cynthia July 29, 2019 at 7:30 am

I have never commented here before though I’ve been reading Raptitude for a while, but this post stopped me in my tracks. A beautiful, elegant rendering of a “familiar concept” that I usually don’t understand as well as I think I do. Thank you for this.
BTW, I’m signed up for an adult ed course on Schopenhauer this fall and look forward to making the connections.

David Cain July 29, 2019 at 10:36 am

Thanks and welcome to the comment section Cynthia.

Hugo July 29, 2019 at 10:13 am

Thank you for this post ! I often try to reformumate with my own words powerful ideas and write them in my notebook, but your words were perfect there.
I already had this idea of everything emerging from a set a causes and consequences, but it never occured to me that litterally anything can stem from any particular action at any particular moment. Thus, I can’t possibly imagine what the future will be made of. Thus, I can freely let go of my expectations and desires, for the future will quite never be exactly as I imagine it right now.
It’s a thing to mentally understand this idea, but another to really feel it and let it flow in your day to day life !

David Cain July 29, 2019 at 10:37 am

Yes, there is a difference there… we have to actually watch phenomena arise into our experience to really get it.

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