Chance, Fate, Luck

How the History of the World Turned on the Randomness of a Sunny Morning One Hundred Years Ago

in European Judaism
Restricted access

A series of random, chance and synchronous events between 10:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. on 28 June 1914 catalysed the world into a war, the reverberations of which are still with us. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his young wife by a Bosnian Serb unfolded through a sequence of unpredictable events, the absence of any one of which would have led history off into another direction. Although history is often thought about as if what actually happened had to happen – what Henri Bergson termed 'the illusions of retrospective determinism' – the events of that sunny June day belie that view. When in the Torah (Numbers 20) Moses strikes the rock, rather than speaking to it, there is a mystery involved as to why he acted as he did. But that moment sealed his fate. Acts which might seem insignificant at the time can have consequences, for us, our society, our world, that can never be imagined at the time – for good and for bad.