- Books, Literature, and Writing
Weird is the English Word for Fate
It was meant to be
your glass half full, or is it half empty? Mine’s neither. It’s either full and
being drunk, or it’s empty and waiting to be refilled.
I was talking to an old friend of mine this morning. She takes an optimistic view of life. She’s a half-full person. She said, “I know I get on your nerves by being optimistic all the time.”
Well I thought about that. It’s true I could sometimes be mildly irritated by her. She was so constantly breathlessly hopeful and enthusiastic. But it wasn’t the optimism that got on my nerves. It was the platitudes.
The one I hated the most was, “it was meant to be”.
Whenever anyone says that to me I want to punch them in the face. “There,” I am inclined to say, “was THAT meant to be too?”
Don’t worry, there’s no truth in that last statement whatsoever. I never have punched anybody in the face for anything, let alone for saying “it was meant to be.” I’m not a punching-in-the-face kind of a person. So maybe that much really is meant to be. I never was meant to punch anyone in the face.
It’s just such a smug phrase, that’s all. “It was meant to be.” It’s always the statement of someone who is well-off and comfortable. No one ever says “it was meant to be” when they’re down-on-their-luck and miserable. Sleeping rough tonight? Cold, hungry, tired, desperate for a kind word? It was meant to be.
Do we choose our lives? Well yes and no and maybe.
Robert Anton Wilson
It was Robert Anton Wilson - that wisest and funniest of all the spiritual
writers - who clarified the matter for me. He said that if someone is knocked
down by a car, say, and hospitalised, he or she can choose what attitude they
take to their misfortune. They can see it as a chance to catch up on their
reading, or they can bemoan the loss of valuable time. But anyone who says they
chose to have the accident is clearly talking through their proverbial parts.
Nothing is meant to be. Nothing is determined. Or rather, what is meant to be is a matter of choice. It is up to us humans to determine our lives through the decisions we make, collectively and individually. Fate is a mystery, not a resolution. When fate casts its strange shadow – as it does sometimes – over the ordinary processes of our lives, it does so with reason. Fate is the question we ask of ourselves. Fate is the choice we are given. Once we have made that choice, then our lives are determined by it. But the moment of fate itself is actually the moment of greatest freedom.
All of the previous
paragraph came to me in a pub. You can call THAT fate if you like. I was
walking passed the pub one afternoon, when I saw someone in there I hadn’t seen
in years, and joined him for a pint. One pint turned into seven (he was buying)
and I ended up, several hours later, setting light to the pizza I’d popped into
the oven before promptly falling asleep on the settee. It was the charred
inevitable pizza of destiny.
Actually, the guy used to be my enemy. We both loved the same women at the same time. It was like this: I’d gone out with her for a while, and then she dumped me. I went a little crazy after that, even going so far one night as to fantasise about killing her. I was reading Kabbalist texts at the time. I thought of her as the Shekhinah, as Jehovah-God’s lost consort. She was the only woman in the world who ever made me want to pray.
After that he’d gone out with her, and had a child with her. And then she left him too. The night she left him she came to see me. He became wild with whiskey and jealousy, just like I had: cut off all his hair, and smashed several windows in the pub where we were drinking. She was playing both of us for a fool and – fool that I am – I had the terrible urge to follow her. This was a mistake as she wasn’t really interested in me at all, merely in the effect I would have upon him.
And now, here we were, me and this guy, several years later, drinking toasts to times gone by, to fate, and to the woman we had both loved - once-upon-a-time.
It’s an old story, of course. Fate often takes on that guise: two blokes chasing the same woman. It’s the story of Arthur and Lancelot, and one of the constant themes of Celtic mythology. Some say the story refers to the cycles of the year, when the Oak King is displaced by the Holly King. In which case, maybe fate goes in circles too.
The English word for fate is “weird”, with the secondary meaning of the uncanny or the supernatural. The weird sisters in Macbeth are weird in the sense that they represent fate, not because they are odd-looking or ugly. And that kind of tells you something else about fate too, that it carries with it an aura of otherness, as it emerges into our lives from a different vector. To think of it as a form of inevitability or determinism, therefore, is to take away its mysteriousness, to diminish its otherworldliness, to mistake the shadow for the thing, in the same way that the word “weird” has been diminished by making it merely into something strange.
It’s so much more than just strange, my darlings: it is who we really are.