A butterfly flaps its wings over a flower. Air currents are set in motion. Halfway around the world, a few weeks later, a hurricane takes shape and sweeps across the seas.
A nail goes missing. The shoe it is on, the soldier wearing the shoe and the battle formation hinging on the soldier fall out of place. A kingdom is lost.
In the world of dramas and in real life, the element of serendipity can play a tremendous role in shaping people’s romantic destinies. A girl chances upon her future sweetheart among courtyard plum blossoms in a period drama. A random painting reunites a pair of lovers in a soap opera. Amnesia forces another pair apart in a second soap opera just to bring a third pair together. You were in a beginner language class when your instructor called in sick one day; the school decided to offer you a place in an intermediate class instead, which you surprisingly excelled at and stayed on to develop a bond with a new classmate, who became your wife. It was lunch hour, but the stack of papers on your in-tray was almost up to your neck, so you decided to grab a quick takeaway sandwich on the other side of the street instead of the usual noodle salad down your block; an old acquaintance you had not seen for years made the opposite choice; you ran into each other, sparks flew, and a year later, the two of you are now walking down the aisle together.
On the other hand, chance events can also shape romantic fates for the worse. In Nine: Nine Time Travels, a news anchor who lost his brother to a fatal hiking trip went back in time 20 years, where he reconnected his brother with a divorcee the latter had reluctantly broken up with, so that his brother would not go on the trip to mend the broken heart he had lived with all these years. His attempt was successful—the couple wedded and his brother even took in her daughter. Startlingly, however, the small girl had a name change and grew up to become a reporter the news anchor was engaged to before his intervention. All of a sudden, he was a man harboring an improper, one-sided love for his niece, who had no recollection of their romance and even dated another guy before his eyes. In real life, such missed opportunities can occur without your notice: a girl you spurned smeared your name behind your back, another girl—one whom you would have loved with all your heart but never spotted—held back her confession as a result, you married someone else instead.
All these suggest that romance is a matter of fate and luck. If you are destined to meet someone, you will meet him or her despite the slimmest of odds. Conversely, if you two are not meant to be, you may never even learn of the other person’s existence even when you share the same roof.
Yet destiny is not something that is wholly uncontrollable by Man. For one thing, adverse events can usually be forestalled through various feedback and safeguard mechanisms. Even incidents as devastating as aviation disasters often occur due to a series of mishaps and errors in these mechanisms, rather than an isolated source of trouble. In the same vein, you can build a system of checks and balances into your life. Get to know people in your network better and keep in touch with them, so that you stay up to date on matters regarding your reputation. Engage in personal branding and market your positive characteristics to counter any malicious rumors out there. Above all, analyze the possible outcomes before you act. While these may not eliminate all undesirable chains of events, they can at least minimize the probability of their occurrence.
Neither do fortuitous opportunities have to fall from the sky. If you work in a male-dominated industry and play gender-segregated sports for leisure, such that you do not have much dating choices, join a cooking class or drama appreciation club, which, with their greater proportions of female participants, offer you a higher chance of finding your ideal girlfriend. Or, if you have had no trouble landing your ideal type but things never seem to work out in your relationships, try to identify what your ideal significant other would appreciate in a lasting relationship or explore potential romantic partners with other attributes instead—perhaps the perfect girlfriend in your mind is not what your heart would truly flutter at. In short, engineer your own opportunities.
A nail can cost a kingdom, but not so readily if military blacksmiths are vetted before their recruitment, horse shoes are double-checked before the release of the animals to their riders, and back-up warriors are assigned beforehand to replace fallen cavalrymen. The army can even start the chain effect on the enemy’s side instead by bribing a blacksmith to take advantage of its rival’s loose safeguards. An unseen butterfly may stir up the air around it, but there are billions of butterflies flying in different directions and even more sources of air perturbation with mutually cancelling effects around the world. Who is to say that an impending hurricane is a foregone conclusion?