Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Mystery of Fate

Earlier this summer, while waiting for the traffic light to change, I noticed twigs with green leaves stuck in the holes in a sign post. I casually wondered what the circumstances might have been that caused someone to do that. Passing the corner several times a week, I soon realized it was not a random, meaningless human act but a living tree growing within the sign post.

I drive past this corner several times a week and I continue to consider the fate of this tree. The definition of fate is: the development of events beyond a person's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power. Was it a supernatural power that allowed the seed to take root where the tiny shoot could escape the mower and the weed whacker by improbably growing inside the relative safety of the sign post? Most would argue it was mere chance, but chance is a synonym of fate.

Every time I drive by, a verse from a Paul Simon song comes to mind:
"It was a dry wind
And it swept across the desert
And it curled into the circle of birth
And the dead sand
Falling on the children
The mothers and the fathers
And the automatic earth"*

The "automatic earth" might refer to the processes of life established and programmed within the DNA of all living things, the impetus for the dogged determination of survival. Despite less than optimum circumstance, a seed, following it's automatic programming, germinates and grows in an attempt to fulfill its destiny. The destiny of the seed is to sprout given the merest chance. If this tree is left to its fate it may slowly and surely engulf the post within its trunk, or it may reach an unnatural limit within the confines of the post when it cannot sustain itself and perish. It may be killed by a human being in defense of city property. Any number of other fates could befall the tree but its seed could not choose not to sprout.

Corporeal human beings, inhabitants of the automatic earth, are powered by this same programming, though we believe we alone, of all living things, have free will - that our lives are guided by a higher purpose, or a higher intelligence, or have a different fate than trees... or insects... or animals... or bacteria. We can at least choose not to live but we honestly have no idea to what extent all living things may possess free will. Some world views acknowledge physical existence itself is not possible without some level of consciousness - that all physical matter contains consciousness. Perhaps by dint of consciousness any physical matter also falls into a spectrum of possible action that can be considered some form of free will.

It is tricky to think my way through such ideas. Far better minds have wrestled these concepts and it is all written somewhere. For all I know, my life as I have lived it is a human version of living despite unnatural confines, just like this tree. Or perhaps a chance of physical life is so precious to tree and human alike that growing within a prison is desirable. Rather than read what another person has decided, it is better to reach my own conclusions on such matters. In the end, I am not sure it matters either way.

*from "The Boy in the Bubble" by Paul Simon, copyright 1986

Attempting to assume its ultimate form despite the limitations

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lol. The answer my friend was blowing in the wind. The difference between those who see opportunities and those who only see obstacles. And those blowing with whichever direction the wind blows..