Monday, December 16, 2013

Meant To Be?

"It must've been meant to be," the phrase came, trippingly. And I halted. Semantics and colloquialisms and idioms abound in every culture; hoist us on their petards. Within, we may become ineluctable victims. Without, we may easily perpetuate phraseology. And overall the shaping of our minds may be such that we react, respond, think and feel along with our sayings, or perhaps even worse, are not aware of what we're saying at all. Like do-do in the wind.

Predestination is a fascinating concept. We more easily ascribe it to an individual than to a group. Those souls in the towers of 9/11 could hardly have been predestined to be there; yet we believe he or she who was meant to be there, but missed the bus, was meant not to be there? Not quite like our concept of karma, with its overall sense of retribution or just rewards, or like Newton's laws of action producing equal and opposite reaction, we take predestination to mean some magical, mystical, religious or spiritual event that was, well, "meant to be." So we open our sails and set loose upon the seas of fortune, favour, and storms. We fall on our knees and break a knee cap (at 90 plus years old). We have a stroke. We have an accident. We miss that bus. We receive an award. Our book is published. We manage to finish the painting, or not.  We win the lottery. "If you're to have it, it will be meant to be, or not." Ha! One may as well not stir.

Hubris, ego, narcissism, and selfishness invest themselves in our language, our culture, our outlook. We almost cannot imagine ourselves not being conscious. Heaven and many mansions hereafter buoy our hopes. Ambition and perseverance and belief invigorates us. We are naturally given to crossing our fingers, to lopping off rabbits' feet, to throwing the bones. And despite all the chance and circumstance and ceremony, we instinctually adhere to phrases such as, "it's meant to be." After all, somewhere outside of ourselves is a coincidence of points that opens luck's door at the precise right time; that turns the traffic light green; that allows for our precision of presence when John Cleese sits down right in front of us at the London theatre; that brings about the dropping of the crystal salad-bowl. It was "meant to be." That parking spot made available just as we arrived, or not; that money found on the pavement; the glove lost; the letter not delivered; the recalled hug given that may well have been the very last, "meant to be"?

Malcolm Gladwell has it that there are three coordinates that usually occur for more than kismet to be made: thousands of hours to be poured into the work; a support network of backup people; and chance. The painting may well have taken 15 years to produce; there may well have been some 8,000 people who saw it at the art show; but without that one special person who has the right connections, the influence, the insight, the clout, the interest, and the wherewithal the painting in question goes back to the artist's studio, to be stacked up with other projects that might never see ‘the light of day’. So it goes. Imagine if the latest art treasure haul had not been hidden from the nazis by one man? Ah well, hiding it was "meant to be."

Fatalism has its flaws. Prayer and hope and luck and instinct have theirs too. And whether we win or lose, shall we in the end say, "It was meant to be"? Meant by whom? And if meant, then why should one struggle so to do, to overcome, to fix, to right, to address, to achieve, if it all was meant to be, or not? Why do both sides in sports teams bend alike to pray before competition?

Whenever I succeed, or not, it has or shall not have been entirely due to my own artifice; there be hundreds of persons involved in the steps along my personal way, and each have impacted my getting to this very 'point in time'. But not one of them is in the least bit as responsible for me as I myself am. Like your reading this, or not. Indeed, just as it was all meant to be? Pet phrases can be cute, indeed, but then again, they can be cumbersome. Or do I blather against the wind? Hm? Should one just leave things as they're meant to be? 

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