Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Turning Wheels and Pulling Strings

“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think of how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

How profoundly true resonate these words of Dickens, even so many years after they were written. I love his allusion to iron and gold, to thorns and flowers, to these very different but equally binding mechanisms that hold us fast throughout our lives. And it makes me think. As I read this passage I did stop as the passage suggests, and I did think of what had led me here; of the peculiar and confused chain of events which did coalesce to create this very moment in which I am sitting, looking up at a clear blue sky somewhere in Asia sipping a Coke and writing this run-on sentence. It really is quite extraordinary, if you want to know. So I realized something, namely, that I don’t think that things change because of time and place, especially if those things are truths. For instance, Dickens’ basic observation, however rudimentary in its composition, is nevertheless profound and true, despite when it was written or what it was written in direct reference to. And regardless of who one believes has orchestrated such events, one cannot deny the truth that a chain of events has been set in motion, from farther back that we can know, and that those events make us who we are, shape what we do, and guide us to who we become. It is interesting for me to remember, a conversation I had with someone a few weeks back who works at the US Embassy in Seoul, and he was remarking of the nature of life and its habit of following a certain course despite an individual having no idea what course that may be. He was talking about his prestigious position at the Embassy, and the path he followed, (rather inadvertently,) to get there. He said that it was funny how things had worked out so well, and the whole time he had no idea that he was bound for such a position, nor that what he had done would work so to his advantage in his current career. “Its as if something is up there,” he said candidly to me, “turning wheels and pulling strings, pushing people towards certain places, and others toward different places.” He took a sip of his beer, looked away from me and at the rain falling gently beside us, shrugged, and turned back. “Its strange” he concluded. In a way, I agree. I doubt very much that this individual thought that the person “pulling strings” was anything divine, instead perhaps fate or some concept even more abstract, but what he said I think is true, as I have witnessed some such guiding presence in my own life, and I am certain I will continue to. I am not trying to make any kind of a statement, but simply an observation. And it makes me wonder if I will be looking back on this time years from now, marveling at how each event and each subtle influence somehow shaped what I will eventually do. But the interesting thing about this whole idea is that it mostly operates in retrospect; one cannot foresee the future any better than one can see through a perfectly dark room. As frustrating as this is, maybe it is good, after all. Maybe it forces us to live with some kind of faith that things will line up, that things are lining up, although all seems confused as of present. Maybe it forces us to believe something uncomfortable, to exercise a muscle seldom used, to force us into comfort when there seemingly is none. I am stubborn, I will tell you that, and it is hard for me to learn from things the first time through. But as I look back I am able to see something undeniable, something that I would do best to learn from and understand, something that would make my life easier if I were able to comprehend. Again, it is not my intent to make any kind of statement regarding the state of my existence or yours, I am not sure I am qualified to, there are simple observations from a simple man.

1 comment:

Jared said...

You make a very intuitive observation in saying that our understanding of a certain providence is best (if not only) seen in retrospect. It made me think perhaps this is a clue from which we can better understand our freedom. We can will whatever we wish but still we are limited in that we can not know for certain the outcome. But all the same it is better to choose and be in error in regards to things we can not know than to delay choice for sake of our limitations. However, if we were to have no limit to our knowledge-that is being atemporal in our perspective-we would then understand choice quite a bit differently. And out of that I must say we would understand freedom much differently. To put it plainly: this thought sparked for me a new perspective on the freedom of individual in light of a cause-and-effect world.
This is all to say that I am encouraged by your thoughts on fate's orchestration of the paths of life, and I hope that we will see all the more how intimate and purposeful fate has been to us as the paths we tread beyond beget more and more clarity. Inspiring thought jon. I miss your conversation, and because of that I can't bring myself to respond to your email.