Sunday 25th May, 2008

Denzil Mohammed
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Fighting the ineluctable

Since I was a child, I had certain dreams. I had visions of where I was going to be and what I was going to be like.

Those dreams and visions became ambitions by almost natural course of action, even though deliberate action was taken to engender them one day to fruition.

I say “natural” because it was only in 2006, when I was devastatingly thwarted, that I realised just how much of my life, my decisions and my behaviour pivoted on these ambitions. They really governed everything I thought and did: the friendships I created and, more so, didn’t create; the jobs I kept; the kinds of relationships I had...

I was told last week those dreams and visions and ambitions were not going to be realised.

Sceptic persuaded

It’s something we’ve all thought about at some point in our lives: has everything been mapped out for us? Are our lives predestined to go this way or another? Is there a well-defined plan of how our lives will progress?

And, the better question: is there nothing we can do to change it?

Last week, I met someone with a holy name and the ability to do something arguably divine. He took my date and time of birth and was able to tell me all about myself, about my past, and about my future.

Yes, I, the born-sceptic, saw an astrologer.

I did it, predictably, out of sheer curiosity: I had the chance, so I did it.

But I also did it, again predictably, because I wanted to know things. I needed to know if certain specific things, those intrinsically crucial things on which my life has always been hinged, would come to pass.

And from the very first words uttered from his lips, this born-sceptic started believing.

Miss Cleo would have been proud, mon.

I questioned little of what he said about me and about my past. He was nearly always spot-on. But it was practically pejorative, though truthful, the character judgments he made.

Why am I that way, I thought? Look at how it has precluded achievement, success, happiness?

And the outlook was similarly negative; my movement, my career, my relationships will all be frustrated by some of the very things and qualities that have precluded success up until now.

“Can these change,” I asked pleadingly.

“Only with devotion,” he said.

Well, devotion, and some serious self-help books.

Is it that our lives really are planned out for us? Even if we know what’s going to happen, there’s nothing we can do to stop, change, overcome or mitigate it?

It’s like those superhero movies, or that Early Edition show we used to see years ago. Except scriptwriters can change the plot. Perhaps, since we don’t pay our scriptwriter, we don’t always get what we want.

Is it that, if we know something is going to happen, and we do the exact opposite of what precedes it, it will still happen?

Sounds fantastic, unconvincing to the rational, scientific, “educated” mind. I mean, we do it every day: take control, do something rather than have something done to us. We wait for the cars to pass before we cross the street so we don’t get knocked down.

But what if everything were predestined? What if we were told we were going to be knocked down? Can’t we wait on the pavement? Don’t we have that power as human beings? Can’t we stay away from the streets on the whole? Don’t we have that free will?

Or are we, in fact, powerless? That no matter what we try or do, even if we know our destiny, or fate, the ineluctable, we still can’t prevent it? Again, the movie: seeing the car or truck or train coming, and being powerless to stop it from striking us. The camera pans out. We see ourselves; we see the car speeding ahead. It zooms in to our petrified faces. Then bam: blackout, next scene.

Does knowing it actually, inadvertently, engender it to happen? There’s an irony: resignation to the inevitable, saying to hell with trying, it’s going to happen anyway.

Predictions, therefore, make it all seem so pointless, so futile, so exhausting, the experience of life. It is, in a sense, an attempt at defying certain “truths” that are bigger than us: challenging a force that, perhaps, we are just too puny to fight.

Yet man’s most instinctive inclination is to survive. We see the car coming, we get out of the way. We see a tsunami coming, we run. Hell, in the words of former Sunday Guardian columnist “Elsa Wrench,” people even try to outrun earthquakes.

Wake-up call

Ideally, one can take predictions like those made of my life and do what it takes, whatever it takes, to make them turn out better. It’s a wake-up call, for sure, a diagnosis to take and figure out how to make things better.

We have no control over external things. We don’t drive the speeding car. We don’t pay the scriptwriter.

But we have control over ourselves. We have control over the responses we make to outside forces. We have free will. We have instinct to survive, to make it better.

At the end, before fate gets us, that must amount to something.

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