Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fate and Free Will

Lately, I've been wrestling with fate. That is, I've been contemplating the concept that one's existence requires her to behave in accordance with the life choices she has made. I'm operating here under the understanding that the life choices people make constitute their "destiny" or fate.

Ideally, we make our life choices consciously; for example, a woman may love many, many men in her lifetime; however, when it comes to choosing a mate, she combines as much awareness as she can muster with a generous dose of dumb luck and chooses one man. What results is the life she leads as a married woman to that particular man; i.e., her "fate." Likewise, a woman gets pregnant with her husband (they are poor artists, they are "not ready," they have decided to wait; nevertheless, she gets pregnant the old fashioned way--without "planning") and chooses to go ahead and become a mother, knowing that having children will complicate her life in the deepest way. She lives, in short, with her eyes and heart open to the experiences she's having; she does not crash or thrash through her life, complaining that the life she's creating for herself -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- is unfair. She does not become a victim of her fate.

Sometimes, while contemplating my fate, passages from Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being seep into my consciousness, passages like "The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become" (Kundera 5).

Before I became a new mom/shut-in, I enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle: I played in a band; I wrote and produced original performances; I acted in plays; I taught English Literature; I traveled the world. My husband and I spent a lot of time out with our friends. We attended parties -- pool parties, cast parties, democratic parties, garden parties, galas. We even threw a party now and then. Mine was a relatively light existence, a troubled existence to be sure -- whose isn't? -- but free of irrevocable responsibility for the most part.

Not so much these days.

Recently, my friend Jason asked me if I wanted to be in a play -- the world premiere rock opera by Daniel Johnston and Infernal Bridegroom Productions. Jason is directing it. It's gonna be amazing, and I would love to be in the play more than most anything else. But I had to say no. No. No. No. Because not only am I a wife, and the mom of a fourteen month old daughter, but also because I'm carrying another baby in my uterus. These three things are major responsibilities, each one compounded by the next. Being a wife is easy; being a wife and mother is exponentially harder. Being a mother of two, I've heard, is exponentially harder than being a mother of one. Besides the responsibilities to my family, there's the reality that by six p.m., I can barely stand. The only thing I'm successful at during the evening hours is passing out from exhaustion.

Is it worth it? Is giving up this extravagant, seemingly expansive lifestyle for the limited, burdened one of family worth the exchange?

Yes. It is. I think. I hope.

I used to think of the Fate phenomenon as the opposite of Free Will. But over the years, I've learned that Fate is a result of Free Will; there is no versus between the two. They are intimately connected, in the same way all great oppositions are connected: dark/light, male/female, parent/child, heaviness/lightness. There is no one without the other.

There is no extravagance without burden.


Philip Levine said...

"Sometimes it seemed the days would never end; and when night came, I would lie watching the stars, to count the hours till morning. I thought of my life, the good and evil days; of the gods, and fate; how much of a man’s life and of his soul they make for him, how much he makes for himself. What if . . .? What man would I have become? What if . . .? Fate and will, will and fate, like earth and sky bringing forth the grain together; and which the bread tastes of, no man knows."
(Renault, Bull from the Sea, p. 319)

Free will is the ability to do gladly that which I must do.
(Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

cake said...

xta, thanks for pointing me to your blog. i've been reading it addictively all day. wonderful writing. and i am learning a lot. for instance, you and i were in SF at the same time, for about the same duration. and, we both come from So Cal, though i don't originate from the beautiful mission town on the coast. San Bernardino is my home town, though there are some beautiful pictures of my grandmother visiting san juan capistrano, surrounded by birds. anyway, i am now your biggest fan (and i'll fight anyone who challenges me for that title).

Joe Mathlete said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe Mathlete said...

I never read blogs, even my closest friends' blogs, and it had been months and months since I'd even glanced at this one. I lack even the most rudimentary perspective to know whether or not the changes I'm making in my own life are worthwhile, but I do know two things:

1. Your daughter is the most bright and beautiful 15-month-old (now 16-month-old) I have ever had the joy of meeting.

2. Having spam on your blog is like having someone write "JUST DO IT" and the Nike check mark in the margins of a William Blake collection.

gie_gie said...
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gie_gie said...

xta- i was just lonely surfing after coming from the motorcycle play strike- i never stop to read blogs much- i read fate/free will. thank you for your words of clarity. i was afraid for a second to be alone -not knowing what to do next after the show, before school next week, clean up my house? think? do nothing??? and i'm so glad i read your blog. i wish things to myself alot but that fate thing gives them clothes to wear and sometimes i don't like how they dress. so i change my wishes. or just play with dolls and make toy music. i used to wish i would have lots of babies. now maybe just a zillion kittens, but i think you are one of the luckiest eXTAvaganzic ladies in the world. i wish you had been in the show. i hope you write one for clara and thing #2. that would be amazing.