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I was just thinking about fate and mystery…

I am often asked whether I feel like it is “fate” when I find a message in a bottle, or meet a sender. I hate to be a bummer, but it doesn’t quite feel like fate to me. It just feels like a an amazing adventure, and I feel lucky at every step–but I don’t feel like it was inevitable. After all, I walk countless miles for these things, getting sunburnt, dehydrated, scratched, cut, and stabbed by exotic flora and whatnot…

But this got me thinking–Humans have always been intrigued by mystery. Our innate curiosity causes an alarm to go off when unusual things happen that seem to require explanation. Just look at all the creative, supernatural explanations of lightning that come down from ancient cultures: Greeks explained it by saying Zeus threw lightning bolts; in east Asia, Dian Mu used mirrors to create lightning. They mystery of lightning drove us wild, and we had to create mythologies to explain it.


The “fate” question feels like the same thing to me, but with fewer sky gods involved.

Many others who have found messages in bottles, though, have felt they were fated to find them. And it makes sense–it’s a very powerful emotional experience! So, I totally get it. But, for me, personally, it just doesn’t feel like “fate”.

My main reservation about calling it “fate” is that it seems to take the mystery out of the situation. And for me, the mystery is everything!

The same primal impulse that caused early cultures to create elaborate stories about the origins of lightning, etc., is the impulse I feel to share these stories. Because messages in bottles are mysterious–very mysterious! Sometimes, they wash up in places where they shouldn’t; sometimes the sender and finder are linked in the most unlikely ways. Sometimes, a message itself can be quite mysterious. And these mysteries deserve exploration!

And that brings me to the story of Ellen Hepp. According to CBS12, she found a mysterious message in a bottle in Florida. Check it out:

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There is so much to love about this message: It was found on a fairly busy beach (what are the chances?); it shares a joyous message of love. The big mystery? It is not signed. Which is kind of sad.

But…isn’t it also kind of great?

It could have come from anyone. Your neighbor. Your kid’s teacher. Your old college friend. We simply don’t know. And something about that is so delightful to me. It means that there are random people out there who are clearly loving and kind, and they want to share that with the world without taking any credit.

We can’t be sure where it came from, which means that probably the only way to find the sender is to share news of the discovery online. If you want to help investigate this mystery, you could share this post!

Either way, this message is a reminder of the power of mystery. We humans may act like mystery bothers us sometimes–but I think there’s a part of us that craves it. For some reason, we need unsolved stories of kindness, we need to know there are strangers around us who are kind and lovely people.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but personally? I feel great going out into the world today, knowing that any one of the people I encounter could be the sender of this note–someone who has a heart full of gratitude and love and kindness. When I look into the faces of strangers, I will strive to see this person–I believe they are in each of us.