Monday, June 1, 2015

Musings on a core theme

Do you believe in Fate?  I’m not talking about fate as the abstract concept of destiny, the events in a man’s life, but The Fates, those ancient beings who visited a home three days after the birth of a child to determine the length of his/her life.

Of course not, should be the overall response. This is the 21st century, the age of reason, science, and stunning technology.  We have satellites orbiting our planet constantly. If gods inhabited the clouds over Mount Olympus we would have seen them by now.  Hades, that dark realm between Underworld Rivers doesn’t exist either, with all the fracking going on we would've run into them already, at the very least tumbled a few of their temples along the way.

I find fascinating how most folks don't know anything about them or that ages ago, ancient civilizations feared them, prayed to them, and barely whispered their names to avoid their attention.  And yet, ever since the day my father placed a book of Greek mythology in my hands, The Fates, Fortune, and Destiny and their effect on humanity have riveted my imagination.  They were the most prominent divinities in several pantheons. They ruled gods and mortals alike; only almighty Zeus—according to some experts—was exempt.

Depending on the culture, Greek, Roman, or Nordic, the terrible threesome was addressed with different names, Moirae, Parcae, Fata, and Norns.  No matter which name the three were fully recognized.  Clotho (spinner) the one who spun the yarn of life, Lachesis (allotter) the one who measure the length, and Atropos (unturnable) the most feared, the one who, with a snip of her terrible shears, ended it all.  This Goya representation of Atropos, the fastest, is truly frightening.

Man's preoccupation with the unknown future and what waits ahead gave birth to even more theories. The concept of the wheel of fortune, which is quite old, possibly originated with classic thinkers and writers such as Cicero.  Imagine a huge wheel, somewhere in some mythical abode, conducting the course of Man's Destiny. 

Some sources indicate that the roman philosopher Boethius was responsible for the Fifteenth Century resurgence of the wheel of fortune. Queen Elizabeth — who consulted with the famous Astrologer  and Diviner John Dee — translated his discourse on fate’s role, The Consolation of Philosophy, written while he was imprisoned.  Boethius writes about the risk of pinning one's hopes on the unreliable fate.

"Inconstancy is my very essence; it is the game I never cease to play as I turn my wheel in its ever changing circle, filled with joy as I bring the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top."

Boethius standing to the side of the wheel.

On a more current trend of thought, the folks who trust their fortunes to the fickle wheel in Las Vegas should read Boethius.  What comes up, must go down with all the inherent consequences.

Ok, going back to the subject, we can find a plethora of images and writings about the wheel dating from the middle ages.  The Romance of the Rose comes to mind right away.  It appears yours truly; this humble mortal is in great company.  Chaucer, Dante, Machiavelli, and of course Shakespeare, were influenced by this concept in some form or another.

Dante's Inferno's speaks:

"No mortal power may stay her spinning wheel
The nations rise and fall by her decree
None may foresee where she will set her heel:

she passes, and things pass. Man's mortal reason
cannot encompass her. She rules her sphere
as the other gods rule theirs. 

Listen to Romeo after he slays Tybalt, “O I am fortune’s fool.”  And Cassius speaking to Brutus, “Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” 

Does the last quote sound familiar?  It should, it’s the title of John Green’s outstanding bestseller The Fault In Our Stars, inspired by Julius Caesar. 

Fate and Fortune, Fortune and Fate, old and new, one and the same.  In literature, this presence has lingered in some form or another, separate or intermingled.  The enchantingly mysterious  Fates have certainly grasped my imagination to the point where the question keeps coming up, what would happen if they appeared as the central power in a modern story?  

How could I resist the temptation?  

Here it is the core theme of Destiny’s Plan.  Raquelita and Matthew, ill-starred lovers struggling against the influence of The Fates.  Is it possible to overcome their whim?  Will their love be strong enough?  The book comes out September 2015.  I hope you'll read it and tell me because I would really like to know.



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