It wasn’t supposed to end like that. Expectations, plans, wishes, hopes, and even more than a few dreams held out for a different resolution. Some snagglebrained, stodgy stoics might shrug their shoulders, say “shit happens,” cite Fate or destiny, and then move on seemingly unaffected. It’s a crime, I scream, this intrusive injustice manifesting itself unannounced! Kismet be damned; it’s not fair! There was still so much to do together.
Predestination, in one form or another, has probably been around since the emergence of modern humans. Confronted with an awe of tameless nature, as well as never knowing when an enemy’s club was going to whack one in the head, we became self-aware and accepted the unavoidable vulnerability and essence of life – its eventual cessation. The subservient kowtow, we all do, to some mysterious power in the universe that makes our lives miserable or worse, is learned at an early age. Stay alive. Continue to function. A repair crew is on the way. Predeterminism gives us our breath and predestination sets a limit as to how long we breath. The game of life is begun without rules, and though many are later indulged by the advancing of this or that set of rules, the only hard and fast rule is that the game is going to end at one point. The ultimate ouch.
Our ‘fate’ is sometimes abstractly personified as Fate, a combination of the Fates, the three daughters of Zeus and Themis who control the destinies of all, perhaps even of the gods themselves. The Moirae, the sisters Clotho (the Spinner), Lachesis (the Apportioner), and Atropos (the Inflexible), make the thread of a person’s life, measure it, and then cut it. Zeus and Themis were also the parents of the Horae, the sisters Eirene, Eunomia, and Dice, who represent the seasons, an agricultural calendar, and an early conception of ‘hours’ as separate units of chronology. If that classical pageturner, the so-called “Library” of Psuedo-Apollodorus, is any indication then the Moirae were active and dependable participants in many early Greek myths. They didn’t possess the toned behinds of Charley’s Angels, but they battled the Giants, lied to and helped defeat Typhon, gave the bad news to Meleager, and even bartered with Ademetus over a replacement in Hell. The Fates seemed to have gotten off to a strong start, the later Romans discussed Justitia (Themis), the Parcae or the Tria Fata (the Moirae), and some lingering effect is still widely felt as an unarticulated philosophy of futility common to deists and atheists alike. Yet, Fate was eclipsed before it advanced far and its substitute was an out-of-this-world choice.
Before the advent of mathematical astronomy
and horoscopic astrology, its attached aberrant, fortune-tellers busied
themselves with scrutinizing icky animal innards, tossing knuckle-bone
dice, and all sorts of inventive schemes designed to coax a preview of
the future. I regard Fate as a philosophical departure from parlor-tricks,
altruistic in its let down, and a persistent reminder when it’s last call.
The invention of the grid-map zodiac, c. 700-600 BCE in Babylon, enabled
an elaborate con whereby planets, stars, and constellations against fixed
coordinates, could be peddled to the desperate as a magical means for those
who could afford it. Tomorrow remains expensive.
O. Neugebauer and H. B. Van Hoesen discuss Greek astrology in their Greek Horoscopes (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1959/1987), while The Astronomica of Marcus Manilius, edited and translated by G. P. Goold (Cambridge: Harvard University Press [Loeb 469], 1977/1992/1997), deals with first century Roman astrology (with an invaluable 123 page introduction), and which taken together ably serve as good documentation of the classical milieu of astral gullibility. Oh, hepatoscopy (looking at livers) was still practiced, as were other foolish augural consultations, but searching the heavens for answers was all the rage. It still is. It was probably fate that Fate faded with the rise of astrology.
Encountering the inevitable (read: death) has always left us asking for a second opinion. Those views are multitudinous and will surely continue to increase. The questions remain the same, but the answers change with the times. Though astrology continues as an altar with a seemingly unlimited supply of sacrificial victims awaiting their turn, organized religion also argues for its attentive due, not unlike a child feeling alone on a crowded playground. Few have shown intellectual compassion and suggested we think for ourselves, as there always seems to be a politician or priest who feels they’re best qualified to pull the strings of the puppet-people. Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” might as well be a soulless supercomputer on the edge of reality with no awareness of the ongoing life and death cycles of the biots. That someone or something is calling the shots is too much for me. Fate? I’ve never been comfortable with surprises.
Every instant of existence is pregnant with possibility, but which one will come to term as reality remains a lottery with no shortage of ticket-buyers. I don’t gamble much, as cash is problematic and luck is a spotlight which likes to keep me walking through shadows, so when I do occasionally allow for something good to develop, keeping fantasy at a minimum, hoping to beat all that it will work out favorably, I cross over from skeptic to believer and surrender to the fantastic. Right, I’m going to be happy and fulfilled! Sure, why not? Because it happens to others. Others always win prizes and I end up feeling cheated.
Is this my fate? A crime, it is, and a cowardly one at that! I was relaxed, comfortable with myself, and I knew a connection was beginning to form, so I was very careful not to rush it. It was with no small amount of satisfaction when I became aware of my smiling and had to admit to myself those guarded feelings had been breached and there might be a happy ending after all. I even told others. An attraction had outmaneuvered necessity and all of a sudden there was an open road before me and I could drive anywhere I wished. Fate showed me freedom, gave a laugh, and then took it away. It’s a crime!
It’s barely been six months, but I’ve come to love my car. That it has a problem with an engine bearing and needs a new motor is tantamount to a death sentence. The mechanic says I can drive it for a bit. Cruel Fates, criminal Fates, nasty bitches all! We didn’t have nearly enough time together.
Dreading public transmigration,