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Excerpt from Dreams

Fate (p. 443)

From chapter "Fate"

In my late teens and early twenties I read everything I could about being fated; what it means; who gives us these fates; who helps us to accomplish them; whether it is possible to have a fate and blow it; the role of free will in fate.

In retrospect this was absolutely age appropriate; I was figuring out who I was in relation to and with myself, local communities, society at large, the world, the universe, other sides. I was preparing for the work of being an adult.

Two quotes in particular captivated me. The first was by Seneca: “Ducunt fata volentem, nolentem trahunt (The fates guide him who will, him who won’t they drag).”

The second was by Thomas Mann, commenting on Schopenhauer, “Precisely as in a dream it is our own will that unconsciously appears as inexorable objective destiny, everything in it proceeding out of ourselves and each of us being the secret theater manager of our own dreams, so also in reality the great dream that a single essence, the will itself, dreams with us all, our fate, may be the product of our inmost selves, of our wills, and we are actually ourselves bringing about what seems to be happening to us.”

These two seemed to me at the time (and still do seem) to carry two widely disparate presumptions about the nature of fate. In the former, you have a fate, and you can go along willingly with this fate, or you can be dragged. This seemed (and seems) to argue for some external beings or forces leading us (and when necessary dragging us) in some direction it has been determined we are supposed to go. The forces could be God or gods. They could be ancestors. They could be “the universe.” They could be just about anyone or anything.

The second seems to argue that it is our own will who was guiding us all along: the guiding actually comes from ourselves.

It should not surprise us that the former was written thousands years ago, while the latter was written in the twentieth century. This follows the movement of the entire culture, of systematically cutting ourselves off from the universe (and other sides) and simultaneously denying that the external world has meaning, and that other sides exist. This takes us back to what I argued earlier, about how members of this culture can sometimes allow that some dreams may have some meaning because in this perspective dreams come from us. So our own will, like our own dreams, can have meaning, and our own will can guide us, but because this culture has made a fetish, a god, and a lifestyle of control, and is based on the terrifying and fear-based notion that we must always be in control of everything (most especially ourselves, except when we can’t control ourselves because nasty selfish genes cause us to do nasty selfish things we would never have done on our own) then of coursewe can (and must)never be guided by some external fate.

Please note I used the word “guided,” not “controlled.” I think again of that line from Sacred Possessions: “The external stimuli, like the stars, influence but do not compel.”

There is much I don’t like about Greek civilization. It was racist, sexist, classist, a democracy every bit as self-congratulatory and false as the modern United States, a conquering empire as self-justifyingly aggressive and as based on theft and murder as any modern empire, including the United States. It was based on destruction of its own and other landbases. In other words, it was a typical civilization.

That said, I do like parts of the Greek notion of eudaimonia, which is what some of the ancient Greek philosophers called the point of life. It’s commonly translated as “happiness,” but I believe a more accurate translation would be “fittingness”: how well your actions match your gifts, match who you are. My understanding of it is that after we die, we spend a hundred lifetimes being treated how we treated others here on earth—and I hope the scientists, capitalists, pornographers, rapists, vivisectors, politicians, and other zombies enjoy their time in hell— after which we go back into the pool of those to be reborn. When our turn comes we decide who will be our parents and what will be our gifts, our purpose.Just before hopping back to this side we drink something that causes us to forget. And here we are. It becomes our task in this world to remember our gifts, our purpose, and to realize them, with the help of guiding spirits, or daimons. Thus eudaimonia, which literally means “having a good guardian spirit.”

I think again of that line, “The external stimuli, like the stars, influence but do not compel.”

And I think also about what so many indigenous peoples have said to me, that humans are to be guided by “original instructions” on how to live, including how to live in concert with one’s nonhuman neighbors, who presumably receive their own original instructions, too, all given them by their Creator. It is a person’s responsibility to live according to these original instructions. Many who do not live right lives do so not because humans are evil, selfish, and destructive, nor because of a Christian original sin, but rather because they have forgotten or actively ignored their original instructions, and they continue to forget about and actively ignore those who continue to give them their instructions.

In fact, this notion of original instructions could not be further in its spiritual, behavioral, and social implications from the implications of original sin, or original sin’s intellectual derivative, selfish genes. Original instructions presume we come into this world carrying with us advice on how to live properly, how to fit in, how to do what is right; and even more crucially, we come into this world having been given a personal and social framework for looking for that advice, for finding it in our daily lives, in dreams, in our relationships with others, and in these others’ actions. These instructions are available to individuals through direct unmediated experience, and although one is often encouraged to ask assistance from one’s elders and one’s community in understanding these instructions and in comprehending messages one may get from dreamgivers, muses, others on other sides, and others on this side, one is also not only encouraged but expected to take increasing responsibility—from the root meaning “to give in return”— for one’s own understanding and interpretations, and how this understanding translates into action and behavior toward one’s community, which includes nonhumans and other sides. This is called “wisdom.” The default in this cosmology is sufficiency; and becoming a selfish, destructive, narcissistic asshole takes effort. On the other hand, original sin presumes that we enter this world damned, insufficient, and only through the intercession of the one and only Jesus Christ (as always, with this culture, there can only be one way, one door; whether it is Jesus Christ, capitalism, science, or anything else about this culture, it’s this culture or death), and normally with the assistance of experts of the cloth, or at least through the mediated Word of God that is the Bible, are we able to finally exit this world and go somewhere in a galaxy far, far away where there is no death, which means where the fundamental responsibility of life, which is death (my death is one of the offerings I must make to have this beautiful experience of having been alive), is denied (which I guess means the machines have won, because there will be no life). The default in this cosmology is insufficiency, is “sin.” The cosmology of the selfish gene is, as I said before, even worse: Christianity without the redemption. It presumes that all of life is based on behavior that under almost any definition would be deemed sociopathological, and that sufficiency, indeed knowledge itself, is based on domination and control. The default in this cosmology is sociopathy. Becoming a (by definition) selfish, destructive, narcissistic asshole takes no effort at all, as we see. In fact it’s in our very genes.