Fate is a concept that has fallen from fashion; like honor, morality, and manners. We think of fate as akin to voodoo, primitive twaddle embraced by simple, unsophisticated people. Surrounded by our gadgets, the much-loved amulets and totems of today, we imagine ourselves swimming in free will, shaping our very reality as we go, bending life itself to our wishes. This, of course, is fatuous delusion, the product of our misguided belief that technology will cure the human flaws that have dogged our every step for millennia.
In fact, we are well past the master/slave tipping point and it has become impossible for any serious student of modern life to suggest with a straight face that these machines serve us; our habits and behaviors have simply become grist for the mill they own and operate.
We are the raw material; they are the plantation owners. Candidly, you will have to search far and wide in our society for anything resembling freedom and free will; as was the case in post-bellum America, “volunteered slavery” results when the terrible face of freedom rears its ugly head, we race back to the comfort of shackles, all of us.
Mental illness introduced me to freedom, real freedom, the freedom one experiences wandering alone in the desert at night, pursued by jackals. It is every bit as terrifying and exhilarating as you think it is. But today, now, I am more interested in fate, that force we imagine we’ve outgrown.
I suggest that the only people who would deny the existence of fate are those who have never tried to disobey its merciless judgment, those of us who have never tried to swim upstream, those among us who have never put forth the unpopular, contrarian position just because someone needed to do it and no one else, apparently, had the moxie.
Because, friends, you flee fate at your peril; hide from fate and you enter the old testament world, you get smote with a two-by-four.
Let’s paraphrase Shakespeare. “In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some are beaten like rented mules and stepchildren until they finally get a little humility, to say nothing of a clue, and start doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Greatness lurks on both sides of my family tree like a meretricious monster, smiling its disingenuous smile, lying without even saying a word. As a child I did worship it, like other people, but became more conscious of its horrors than its delights, and soon fell into the familiar pattern of fleeing into escape in its myriad forms, drugs, alcohol, mania and depression, indulging hedonistic appetites, the adrenaline rush of reckless thrill seeking, etcetera.
What comes of wrestling with one’s fate, hiding from it, denying it, is simple – and recognizable from far away – you see a man losing a war with himself, a man who has become his worst enemy, a man self-administering the death of 1,000 cuts.
In 1990 I wrote the first draft of my bipolar memoir, Invisible Driving. In the course of doing so I had to confront some hideous realities.
First, of course, came the shame and disgrace of being less than, inferior, crazy. Then there was the ragged history of escape into intoxicants. Worse still was a long string of unpalatable attributes, cowardice, arrogance, entitlement, narcissism and elitism among them.
But, as I slaved to do the impossible, that is, put readers into the unimaginably foreign world of mania, something even more horrible appeared, a quality I’d feared yet always secretly wondered about; greatness.
Once you have done something absolutely new, something clearly impossible, you cannot pretend you haven’t. You know. And if you know, and you fail to act on that knowledge, you are far worse than a slacker – you are too much of a coward to be yourself.
We are put here to love one another, to care for one another. When we don’t, we fuck with fate, and the sickness begins. There are a million ways to be great.
“If greatness is your fate, do not flee it; but remember it’s the gift that keeps on taking.” Taz Mopula