Fate

Fate, Federal Court, Moon
by Anne Carson

The fate of the earth. The fate of me. The fate of you. The fate of Faisal. The fate of the court where Faisal will plead his case. The fate of the court’s bias. Every court has a bias. It sifts to the surface gradually. The fate of whomever we drink to after court. The fate of that branch of mathematics that deals with ‘dead-end depth’. The fate of Yemen where Faisal will probably never return. The fate of the engineering job Faisal had in Yemen before the events in question. The fate of the ‘simple random walk’ and its difference from the ‘homesick random walk’, concepts from a mathematics textbook I read once about dead-end depth. The fate of Montreal where Faisal lives now. The fate of his family, the ones still alive, back in Yemen and the fate of the bridal couple, still alive, whose wedding was the target of the drone pilot (a mistake). The fate of the others, not still alive (a mistake). The fate of the moon that rose over us as we drove through the mountains of Pennsylvania to be present at Faisal’s day in court. The fate of the silveriness of the moon that no words can ever describe. The fate of the bright sleepless night. The fate of our phones, which we decide to take to the courthouse at 9 a.m. and relinquish at the door. The fate of two guys doing a job interview in the cafeteria where we stop for coffee on the way to courtroom 31. Been around the block, says one guy. Army does the billing, says the other guy. The fate of so many men in suits and ties. The fate of being lost in marble corridors. The fate of being much too early at courtroom 31. The fate of the knot of lawyers who surround Faisal as he enters in a new suit. The fate of congratulating him on his new suit. The fate of his smile. His smile is great. The fate of the numerous clerks who pour glasses of water for the judges and generally fuss around. The fate of the appellant whose case precedes Faisal’s, which concerns a warrant ‘so lacking in probable cause’ that [something to do with ‘Garcia’] [something to do with gangs and ‘a constitutional path’]. The fate of the pearls worn by Judge Dillard, who sits on the far right of the bench, which curve like teeth below her actual teeth. The fate of straining to hear what Faisal’s lawyer, with his back to us, says to the judges. The fate of him perhaps saying that the government is asking the court to refrain from judging, asking the court to step back without knowing what it is stepping back from. The fate of proportionality, a matter of context. The fate of what is or is not a political question. The fate of the precedent called ‘al Shifa’, with which everyone seems familiar. The fate of a publicly acknowledged programme of targeting people who might be a danger to us. The fate of inscrutable acronyms. The fate of me totally losing the thread of the argument as we distinguish ‘merits’ from ‘standing’. The fate of what Faisal is seeking, which is now given as ‘declaratory relief’ (new phrase to me). The fate of ‘plaintiffs who have no chance of being harmed in the future due to being deceased’, a wording that gives pause. The fate of how all this may depend on her pearls, her teeth. The fate of the sentence, ‘We are really sorry, we made a mistake,’ which Judge Dillard utters in a hypothetical context but still it’s good to hear. The fate of the government lawyer who is blonde and talks too fast, using ‘jurisdictional’ many times and adding ‘as the relief sought is unavailable’. The fate of wondering why it is unavailable to say, ‘Sorry’. The fate of Judge Dillard’s invitation to the government lawyer to tell the plaintiff how he might ‘exhaust all administrative avenues of redress’, as the government claims he should have done before bringing this case. ‘Where would he go?’ Judge Dillard asks with apparent honest curiosity. ‘If you were he, where would you go?’ The fate of our bewildered conversation afterwards about why she said this, whose side she is on, what she expects Faisal’s lawyers to do with it now. The fate of the tuna sandwiches eaten with Faisal while debating this. The fate of his quietness while others talk. The fate of his smile, which seems to invite the soul, centuries ago. Serving tea, let’s say, to guests. The moon above them. Joy. The fate of disinterestedness, of joy, of what would Kant say, of not understanding what kind of thing the law is anyway, for example in its similarity to mathematics, for they both pretend to perfect objectivity but objectivity is a matter of wording and words can be, well, a mistake. The fate of the many thoughts that go on in Faisal when he is quiet, or the few thoughts, how would I know? The fate of the deep sea diver that he resembles, isolated, adrift. The fate of him back in his kitchen in Montreal next week or next year, sitting on a chair or standing at the window, the moon by then perhaps a thin cry, perhaps gone. The fate of simplicity, of randomness, of homesickness, of dead ends, of souls. Who can say how silvery it was? Where would he go? Sorry?

Published in the London Review of Books
Vol. 39 No. 6 · 16 March 2017

I was once given this poem as the introduction to a writing exercise. Write or re-write a paragraph of your work-in-progress beginning every sentence with the fate, our tutor said. Notice how commencing with these words changes the way you shape your story. Notice what impact fate has on your narrative.

I do not like fate. I refuse fate. I want to scream at fate to fuck off.

I do not want to think about the fate of the earth, the fate of me. I especially do not want to think about the fate of you.

I do not like fate having an impact on my narrative.

And yet. Here we are.

The fate of me. The fate of you. The fate of the hospital where you are having your chemo. The fate of the doctors. The fate of the nurses. The fate of the specialists who are administering your treatment. The fate of the apartment in our COVID capital. The fate of the foundation that’s provided our accommodation. The fate of my psychologist who keeps asking “are you eating?” but how could I be eating? The fate of the words intensive protocol, neurotoxicity, and treatment related complications. The fate of having to learn another medical language in the middle of a pandemic after already learning the language of the pandemic. The fate of how all of this depends on limited evidence.

And so, I say.

Fuck fate. Fate will not shape my story. Or yours.

air and light and time and space

”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
way
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to
create.”

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work 16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
welfare,
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
away,
you’re going to create blind
crippled
demented,
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses
for.

Charles Bukowski

There is always something. There is always something that will get in the way, even of air and light and time and space. If you allow it.

And you do.

You wait. Until after the house is vacuumed. The cat has move from your lap to his bed. The dishwasher is unpacked. The car is serviced. The work week is over. The children have grown. The cup of tea has gone cold. The fire has gone out.

You wait for the perfect time.

But you do not need air and light and time and space. Only yourself.

Drink from the well of yourself and begin again.
Charles Bukowski

The Last Exhale

You breathed out slowly
longer
softer
than a sigh.

And as you did you wondered why
I don’t know why you like me, you said
But it wasn’t a question.
Instead
it was a statement. (A feeling of regret?
Did you think you were breaking my heart? You weren’t. I’d need to have one for that.)

Would you rather I didn’t? I replied, thinking you wanted to end that non-thing we had.
No. (You stop. Whisper, softer, again.)
I just know it will evaporate one day and I need to not rely on it.

You’ve said more since about friends and other lovers (not that I count myself as such)
who were there, then weren’t, or weren’t enough or, probably, just couldn’t be bothered
and left.

But it was all too late
I’d breathed you in
and haven’t breathed out since.

So now I pretend that we’re just friends
with nothing to convince
me otherwise
as we scramble round the edges of half-made thoughts and silent glances.

You’re complicated. You’ve said. I know. It doesn’t scare me.
But love does. Love hurts. (Apparently.) And you’re the first I’ve found who might, maybe be able to break me.

So I’ll hold this breath for as long as I can and you’ll have to leave me, not the other way around (but you’ll like that too, I know full well.)
I’m not going anywhere, no matter how hard you make it, too bad, so sad. (Ssshhhh. Don’t make a sound.)

And in the end when I finally breathe you out (turns out I do have a heart)
that last exhale
will be
my
last.

2 December 2011

The End: What To Do When You Finish Writing A Book

Today I wrote two little words I wasn’t expecting to write until tomorrow. And yet, here we are. At this point.

My feet are tingling like they do when you have pins and needles, numb, as if you’ve been sitting awkwardly cutting off your circulation, but in that sweet spot, before the blood rushes back into the capillaries and it starts to sting.

The cells, the atoms in my cells, are vibrating with energy. The energy of having finished. It is a gentle excitement. Soft. Like the way you realise you are recovered. After the fact. You do not notice it at first because recovery, like writing, feels like a slog. Every step is an effort. You wade through concrete. You make progress. And you don’t. There is resistance. The task seems overwhelming and you pause at various points to take a breath. To rest. There is no ticker-tape parade upon success. No party. There might have been, if you’d noticed it at the time. But even as you were thinking your last disordered thought, even as you were writing your final sentence, you didn’t know. And then you did.

So what do you do when you finish writing a book?

  1. You write the end
  2. You drink cider in the sunshine with a friend
  3. You buy yourself some flowers
  4. You go for a run
  5. You make dinner for the family
  6. You water your plants
  7. You hug your partner
  8. You feed the cat
  9. You write a blog post
  10. You begin again, a new story

I have been finished with the story I’ve written for longer than I’ve been writing it. Soon, lovely readers, I will hand it over to you.

The Beginning…or, Somewhere

The screen is blank. The cursor blinking, ready and waiting to be pushed forward by keystrokes that form words, sentences, coherent thoughts.

Writing a blog post was supposed be easier than editing my book. But it’s not.

Sometimes, when there is too much to say, it’s easier to say nothing. I don’t know where to start. But maybe that’s the point. Do we ever? Is there even a beginning?

Time is a human construct based primarily on natural occurrences. The spin of the earth on its axis, offering us both darkness and light. The orbit around the sun providing us with seasons. We break these units into ever smaller increments. Hours. Minutes. Seconds. We quantify these periods into days, weeks, months, and we count their passing.

But what do we do with all this time? How often do we pay attention? Because life is both long, and short. It can change slowly over many years. Or irrevocably, in fragments of seconds. At times, it seems not to change at all.

Endings feel easier to identify than beginnings. But the truth we often hide from ourselves is that the edges are blurry. Endings and beginnings overlap and blend into each other. Most of life can’t be sectioned neatly into containers and labelled, even though I often wish it could. And once, believed I was an expert at it.

That too, was an untruth, like many things we often believe. If you undertake the process of self-examination and pick away at the surface of your thoughts to reveal the underpinning beliefs, the reality can often be ugly. Or at the very least, uncomfortable. I began that process in earnest when I started this blog in 2010. While my focus has shifted at various points, I will never be finished.

And life goes on.

Music Monday | The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows – Gang of Youths

Discussing the track, Gang of Youths frontman Dave Le’aupepe says:

“This song came about after I struggled with writer’s block for a year, barely managing to etch out more than a single verse of something awful the whole time. I was walking home across the Brooklyn Bridge one night, questioning my place in the world, contemplating giving up music and doing something more substantial. I sort of felt that I wasn’t doing anything that actually mattered. But I looked out at the skyline, all silvery and strange and in typical self-indulged frontman fashion, I began to revel in this moment of abandon, of self-hate. As a result, I think I stumbled across a kind life-affirming axiom; that in a cosmos potentially absent of meaning, and an existence devoid of objective value, I have an opportunity to invent my own meaning. We all do. We can ascribe meaning and value to our own lives and in a way, attribute great esteem and value to each other as a result.

All of us as adults, from youth to old age are drunk, stumbling around in the dark looking for a kebab. I’m scared and unsure, and I want to acknowledge this rather than repress it, or allow cynics to denigrate me because of it. So the song is about becoming more human, more aware and I guess in a way, more alive.”

It’s been just over twelve months since I posted last.

I haven’t been struggling with writer’s block but a change of jobs and new work commitments have eclipsed the time freed up by not travelling for two weeks out of every month. Those spare hours have been filled with study for my new role. As of the end of this week, however, my training period is complete. I’ve passed all the exams and start on shift next Monday. This will give me ample time to ponder over the meaning — or lack thereof — of life.

“Cause not everything means something, honey
So say the unsayable, say the most human of things
And if everything is temporary
I will bear the unbearable, terrible triteness of being.”

 

 

Bonus: the video has power lines 🙂

Hope

What breaks at daybreak?
Is it the darkness?
Is it the light?
Is it your heart?
Is it your fight?

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No night, no matter how dark
can withstand sunrise
just as no doubt, however deep
can withstand hope.

Homecoming

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…
“Closing Time” Semisonic

The thing about time travel is that it’s much slower than people think. You can only go second by second, minute by minute, day by day.  And worse, you can only travel forwards. Eventually, after hours, days, weeks and months, you find yourself years into the future.

Sometimes, within those years, big noticeable things happen. You get divorced. You move interstate. You adopt a cat. You nearly die.

But most of the time, the days and weeks are filled with small incidental things. You wake up. You shower. You follow your meal plan. You take baths. You swim in the sea. You fold laundry. You swallow your meds. You learn to knit.

And then, one day, you make friends. You fall in love. You become a stepmum.

Life shifts you into the strangest of places, the lovingest of arms and the kindest of corners. It’s not all brightness and light, of course. Life doesn’t work that way, even for the most charmed. But second chances exist everywhere.

I began writing in 2010 as a way of processing both the physical and psychological aspects of the mental illnesses I was experiencing, although I never intended it as therapy. I blogged publicly but anonymously about my experiences for almost five years. Just over a year ago, having not written for some time, I chose to end the blog so that I could focus on re-configuring previous work, as well as new material, into something that resembled a memoir. As that process is nearing completion, I have been feeling confused about what to do with this space.

I could have started a new blog. In fact, I created several. But none of them had the captivating or familiar feel of this place. Coming here feels like coming home.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. This is my new beginning. This is my homecoming.

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