"Alas, the doors of fortune do not open inward, so that by storming them one can force them open; but they open outward, and therefore nothing can be done.
For some time I have been wondering what it was that moved me to resign my position as teacher in a secondary school. As I think it over, it seems to me that such a position was precisely what I wanted. Today a light dawned upon me; the reason was just this, that I had considered myself absolutely fitted for the post. Had I retained it, I should have had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Hence I thought it best to resign, and to seek employment with a traveling troupe of players, since I had no talent for theatricals, and therefore had everything to gain."
Sören Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Diapsalmata.
I've long been fascinated by success at the last instant — as though by miracle, divine intervention, or extremely good luck. I'm talking about deliverance at the last possible moment.
But not before one is able to count the success lost — and accepting that fact in glad despair. And then seeing one's fond wish granted, after all! But not before that conciliation of self with circumstances had been accomplished!
How many examples there are of this!! Want something very badly? Seem to not to be able to get it — up even until the very last minute — and then, upon the determination to be happy under any circumstances, fond wish granted or not — the fond wish is miraculously granted? Know this drill?
It is though this particular life of mine were set aside for the rationalization of that fond-wish syndrome... that it would take me a lifetime of these experiences to appreciate the wisdom residing in each of them: namely, that we are the makers of our own realities, and that tricks will be played upon us whenever we forget, in order that we remember once again. 1
The Pamphili Papers, notes.
For months he was working on this file called "secret.weapon."
No one ever knew what it was about.
But you could tell that's what he was working on if you had a "strong w."
Always "e secret.weapon," you'd see by his name. Always working on it.
But in the end, just like in The Shining, it turns out he was typing x's into his computer, and that he had no secret weapon at all.
CMD? p secret.weapon <ENTER>
"It is as though something had begun to slip — as though I haven't the firm grip I had upon events. — What is success? It is an inner, and indescribable force, resourcefulness, power of vision; a consciousness that I am, by my mere existence, exerting pressure on the movement of life about me. It is my belief in the adaptability of life to my own ends. Fortune and success lie within ourselves. We must hold them firmly — deep within us. For as soon as something begins to slip, to relax, to get tired, 'within' us, then everything without us will rebel and struggle to withdraw from our influence. One thing follows another, blow after blow — and the man is finished.
For the first time in his career he had fully and personally experienced the ruthless brutality of business life and seen how all better, gentler, and kindlier sentiments creep away and hid themselves before the one raw, naked, dominating instinct of self-preservation. He had seen that when one suffers a misfortune in business, one is met by one's friends — and one's best friends — not with sympathy, not with compassion, but with suspicion — cold, cruel, hostile suspicion."
Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks.
If benevolent destiny — that all things turn out well in the end, or in its religious form, that God gives his creatures all they need to solve their problems is an illusion, the illusion could be explained in non-miraculous terms as follows:
There is an obvious natural selection in favor of persons for whom things turn out well in the end. The others survive in smaller numbers, and so are less responsible for opinion on the matter, aphorisms recorded in print and other media formats, and so forth. This means that there will be a statistical favoring of the view which promotes the theory of benevolent destiny, and that there will the feeling among many that God gives His creatures all they need to solve their problems.
Among those who have survived any diffficulties whatsoever, there will be the opinion that difficulties are in fact survivable. These persons will from time to time attempt to explain their good fortune, and, because of popular opinion on the matter, many of these will incline towards the theory of benevolent destiny.
The theory of benevolent destiny is a Deus ex Machina explanation in the sense that that it is not inconsistent with observed facts, seems to explain them, yet is not susceptible to any empirical refutation. There is no observed result which would go to disprove the theory.
The theory of benevolent destiny thus becomes a matter of personal taste.
If one succeeds in the face of difficulties, one can credit the theory, and come to believe in it more.
If one fails to succeed, the theory is still not disproven, since one may still prevail in the end, and has simply perhaps not used God-given gifts as one should have, and could have.
The theory is thus apparently confirmed by any results whatsoever, and impervious to any definitive disproof.
The Pamphili Papers, notes.
I used to wonder — occasionally — if I could justifiably describe myself as either an optimist or a pessimist. Whatever response I came up with always depended on my mood. If I was feeling clever, I would consider myself a pessimist, and a proud one at that, no matter how fortunate I had recently been. It was only in my stupid mood that I felt optimistic. The more stupid I was, the more I assumed that events would unfold favorably for me. I now see that there was an error in these neat categorizations: from time time to time my cleverness disguised just how stupid I was being.
William Boyd, Brazzaville Beach
Every night, when I splash cold water on my face before going to bed, the sensation of the wet and the cold results in my thinking about the father of my mother. Every time. It's become one of those weird associations which perpetuates itself madly, mocking me.
It's because my maternal grandfather said something to me once about splashing cold water on one's face, and it's stuck with me ever since.
I've thought I should implant the same notion in David, my son, before it's too late. For all I know, my grandfather received this notion from his own grandfather, and he from his, etc.
The Tobago Papers, notes.
On numerous occasions during my adult life, I have felt sick unto death; that is, afflicted with symptoms so grave and frightening that I feared that this might be my final illness. These symptoms would invariably disappear, and my good health would be restored
But with their disappearance, the various symptoms could no longer be remembered. The type of pain and discomfort they represented could not be conjured up — even by the imagination. It was as though they had never occurred to begin with, these dolours.
In leaving, they wiped away their traces. I cannot remember them now. I know only the historical fact, that they once existed. But I cannot remember what they were like.
The Tobago Papers, notes.
Tightly screwed up went her lips, as she spat an order to the one who was by all presents her mate. A domestic issue at stake: would he sit here, or there. She would have him sit here, and he would sit there, instead. And so the battle lines were drawn, across the top of a wicker table in a tourist hotel in Plymouth, Tobago, in the West Indies.
"Listen to them pull the chocks against the rocking line; listen to my love, whose sobs will not relent in this life, and who misunderstands me still."
Some man just ran up and typed a bunch of words into my computer, pressed <ENTER>, and then ran away again, snarling and cursing and complaining about his situation. Another lovers' quarrel, unless I miss my bet, but involving my computer keyboard this time, and using my precious random access memory.
Another time I would have bid him tarry awhile, and compare his notes with mine.
"My name is Emma. I have one sister whose name is Sarah. I live in Wales, Wrexham. I am ten years old, I go to a Welsh school which is called Victoria Junior School. My surname is Robertson. I live at 29 Green Park, Erddig, Wrexham, Clwyd LL13 7YE."
The Tobago Papers, notes.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.