I don't know how it goes for you but for me everything important in my life has happened to me, often in spite of myself. I have no real clue though I am often instructed how I could actually decide and plan and then become the captain of my fate. It seems as though many people do that, or at least are able to believe they are masters of their own fate. They go on to conquer the world, it seems. There is a whole industry of encouragement, gurus and self help both, supporting that kind of effort.
Here is a poem that is often found amongst the literature collected concerning that attitude:
"Invictus" By William Ernest Henley
Dark as the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced, nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the horror of the shade.
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.
In the sense the poem offers, I guess it is true enough. While the world slings its arrows, still I shall forge my way. That is all inner work and response, all so not about what happens on the planet but instead what happens within me. It is even about how I shall stand face to face before God's reckoning of me, having done my best while I report about all this beauty and horror, elegance and chaos on the planet. That's where Einstein's quote comes in. I believe taking that attitude out of the inner work and applying it to the events of my life over-simplifies things and in that becomes falsehood, a lie I might try to tell myself. I pray that you do not lie to yourself. I believe the fate of our planet hinges on this kind of truth telling. Our lies will kill us.
Where I live and what I do, who I married and who came after, how I finished my degree, how this blogging happened, all of it turns on little things that mushroomed and those little things weren't things I chose. My plans have all slipped away. Instead these little doors opened of their own accord. Stuff happened to me and I said okay, I'll go there. The things I tried to do on my own initiative all blew up in my face when I was very young and I fared little better later. What I trust it is, my life has been God led. That started when I was nineteen really and the first part nearly killed me. Then it got really scary. Then it started to straighten out. Then there was a huge reckoning. Then the path that led here began. Now I am old and live alone. It surprises me how okay this is :)
My Whole Life
My whole life has turned
On doors like these, doors
At this moment open, then
Closed forever more -
Doors I enter once.
After that the whole world's changed.
And here's me knowing
That if I missed them,
My life would break, I would die.
And here's me so sure
I can't have done it
Without you or him or pluck.
Poem written December 29, 2008 3:42 PM
First published April 26, 2009
Introductory paragraphs extended and modified today.
Some years ago my poetry took on a mythic flavor and I became a character in my own poems, a mage, "the man of the Northern Wall". This apellation is not completely fictional. My middle name is Noordwal, a Dutch term for north wall, though in current Dutch it mainly means north bank as in riverbank. I was told that an ancestor, a Portugese Jew escaping the Inquisition, settled in a small Dutch town and took this name from where he settled, near the north wall of the town. I have thought for a long time that -wal meant wall, think my mother told me that. A linguist might say that my usage is no longer common, is an older usage, but then the Inquisition happened in Portugal a few centuries ago, right around the time the Moors lost control of the Iberian Peninsula and the Jews lost the modest protection given them by Islam. Now I write as this mage, my poetry persona.