Reading this morning about Claude Monet it struck me just how many things in life are governed by that phrase. In fact everything.
Throughout his life Monet would go now and then to visit his brother, who lived in Rouen. Once when he went in February 1892, he stayed in a hotel which overlooked Rouen Cathedral and he sat at the window watching the daylight fade on the South West front and noticed how the light shifted from one place to another as it faded. And that was enough to inspire his thirty amazing paintings of the cathedral showing the light at every hour, showing what atmosphere hourly does to stonework.
What if Monet had been given another room, one which didn't overlook the cathedral front? Then his inspiration for the series would never had happened and we wouldn't be left with this wonderful set of impressionist paintings - perhaps amongst the most famous that he ever did.
Claude Debussy came to England and stayed in a hotel at Eastbourne. Listening to the sound of the sea inspired him to write La Mer. That most French of composers writing a piece which most people think of as quintessentially French, inspired by the English seashore.
What if he had not come to Eastbourne? Would he still have written a piece about the sea, a piece which is amongst his most loved?
And of course we can come down to the more mundane.
'What ifs' really govern every aspect of our lives - from the moment of our conception onwards. Of course with the famous and the gifted we can speculate and marvel at the coincidences that put the artist or composer in the right place at the right time - but maybe it is no less worthy of thought when it applies to our own lives and the paths they have taken.