September 1, 1995


Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate

I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,

And many a Knot unravell'd by the Road;

But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Philosophers, theologians and mystics have been musing about a person's destiny since time began. Some believe that everything is pre-destined and some are sure that nothing exists until it actually happens.

There was a story (I don't remember who authored it) about two men who were discussing the problem, and one said that if a person was allowed to live his life over again, he would make the same mistakes that he did before. The other replied that, since he didn't know that they were mistakes, of course he would make the same mistakes. No, the first insists, even if he could remember his past life, he would make the same mistakes. The man is magically allowed to live his life over again, while remembering his past life. I don't remember what happens, but I believe that he does make the same mistakes over again, even though he is aware of the consequences.

There is something to be said for destiny. We start life with a set of genes and a set of parents. We are born in a certain place and a certain time, and all of these things are as they are and cannot be changed. We are born into a rich or poor family and into a social class. For the first part of our lives, we have almost no control over much of anything. Even though a baby believes that it is his crying that brings the food, it isn't so. A child believes that he has much more power than he really has --and some people never really grow up.

We have little control over acts of nature: earthquakes, tornados, floods, wind storms. Some people are killed by lightning each year, and many are killed or maimed in accidents of all sorts, in which the only contribution of the victim is that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

There was a saying in the army that you would get killed if "that bullet has your name on it;" to which someone replied, "The bullet that I'm worried about is the one marked to whom it may concern."

I think that a belief in destiny is one way of dealing with the ever present fear of things happening to you over which you have no control. You know that if two cars weren't in exactly the same place at the same time, the collision would never have happened. If it is predestined, you have to accept it. If not, then you have the power to avoid disaster if it can be foreseen. All safety programs are based on this assumption.

Some people have made big bucks by convincing others that they are able to foresee the future and can help people to avoid disaster. If an astrologer or fortune teller(now called a psychic) tells you that you will have a terrible day on the job tomorrow, and you decide to stay home, you can avoid that bad day. Of course, if you drown in the bathtub, your clairvoyant isn't responsible because....and on and on.

I have served as a fortune teller at small charity fund raisers. It's a fairly easy job and, if you're clever, you can mystify your customers. It's not hard to tell what someone does by looking at the calluses, or lack thereof, on someone's hand. Nor is it difficult to get clues about someone from their behavior. Some people are super good at it and have managed to swindle even police chiefs. The art of the con, of which the most important thing is being able to read people, is what makes super salesmen -and swindlers.

How do I feel about it? Well, I am absolutely sure that whatever has happened has happened. Since the present and future will eventually become the past, what will happen will happen. Do you understand what I have just written? I'm not sure that I do. Can it be predicted in advance? Only if it is a predictable event: If you hit your fingernail with the hammer, it will hurt.

And you who believe in fortune tellers, I can predict that you will be parted from some of your money by them.

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