Thursday, June 10, 2010


Fortune may favor the bold, but surely such a fickle fate has its own heightened sense of humor. Fortune may just as well favor the ridiculous, the sublime, the bored, the indifferent. Occasionally even the mortal, electronic gods at Yahoo pick up on such flavors in the celestial air, giving us a scent of the absurd but intricate designs that govern our lives. (Or appear to, at any rate.)

There may yet be a means by which we can diminish how fortune and fate plot our perils; alternate routes in the human map may be detected if we look at the map with all of our might.

The other day a story appeared that told the unlikely and amusing tale of a wife browsing through old photographs with her husband of a trip to Disneyland taken long ago, in childhood. The husband noticed somebody suspiciously, intimately familiar hovering in the back of the photo, an extra in the movie of his wife's life. Only that extra happened to be his own father.

Can such a coincidence be any more contrived? In a film, a play, a book, or even perhaps in the hidden safety and carefully obscured nook of our own nighttime dreams, we would not readily accept such a concoction. Life, however (or what we recognize 'life to be), needs to construct no such shields against the impossibility of circumstance. People wander in and out of each other's photographs, and, decades later, are brought together once more by matrimony.

It's all too simple to let fate get off easy in such a scenario. We can barter around empty words and familiar phrases like 'incredible', 'what are the odds', 'it just goes to show you', 'you never can tell', and comfort ourselves with the odd, innate bizarreness of the lives that we live, never pausing to acknowledge that although we may very well be the captains of our own ship, the possibility of us being players on someone else's stage, spouting lines written by our own, unknown creators.

That, too, is an easy out. The gods may very well be pushing us around as blithely or intently as we move a pawn into its next position on our chessboards, but such a possibility allows us to be the passive creatures we long to become, the fish that are gently removed from the hooks of the rods of disappointed children and tossed casually back into the water to swim another day.

Perhaps we nudge our fates in manners we cannot assess. Perhaps this woman, this wife, long ago, as a child, beamed brightly at her future father-in-law out of the corner of her mouth as the picture was being snapped. He smiled back, thinking to himself: What a grand and sweet gesture, to be smiled at by a child on the first day of spring. For days, even weeks afterwards, he felt warmed in a way that he could not explain. He was nicer to his own wife and children. He tossed the ball with his son and played Barbies with his daughter. Goodness rippled forth from his every action. The son felt loved, gained confidence, became humane in interior places where before he had been but a boy. Years later, his future wife recognized such humanity in his tone and fell for the man she sensed he might become, given time and a certain tilt on her part. Not knowing that she had started the whole cycle in motion as a child. (Are not most children indifferent to the sorrow and joy they engender in others?)

I'm tempted to take a camera, any camera, any size, and prowl the streets by day and by night, snapping random shots of ordinary people, hoping that something human in the air will somehow shift to a larger, cosmic benevolence by the click of a lens. Perhaps someone will sense what my pursuit entails, even if I can not articulate it in words. The photos will capture a spirit and, instead of diminishing or destroying its essence, as inland tribes still believe (or so I'm told), the stolen image will flash their very beings into a higher form of connection.

We wander in and out of other's photos, usually hiding ourselves, not wanting to ruin someone else's shot. In the forefront of our own existence and the backgroud of everyone else's. Should a camera lens be wide enough to capture the entire planet in one glorious, panoramic backdrop of smiles and waves, everyone a star, no one an extra, would that be enough to banish coincidence's frustrating, perplexing hold on our lives to a distant land where it would haunt us no more?