This post from Scary Mommy cycled through my Facebook feed in August, and my comment on the thread was, The meant-to-be people: I want to punch them in the throat every time. Save for my devout Christian friends who maintain faith in God’s plan (and with whom I respectfully disagree) I suspect you, gentle reader, can empathize. I’ll spare you my rant on the gargantuan pair of huevos it requires to look in the eyes of someone battling a disease, a failure of the physical body that reeks havoc on quality of life and crushes dreams, and declare their suffering is “meant to be.” Even the most extreme consequences? Dead babies, failed adoptions in which desperately longed-for children are ripped grievously from happy homes by the same capricious women who couldn’t manage simple contraception – these atrocities are calculated and deliberate events? If you believe that in earnest, then I suggest some deep reflection on the alleged benevolence of your source is in order. No, Don Draper said it best:
There is no system; the universe is indifferent.
Or as Stephen Hawking put it,
We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.
And the bodies of some of those monkeys fail in various ways some of the time, so it’s arrogant and callous to suggest, particularly when you’re blissfully spared from the misfortunes of the statistical margin, that this occurs as a consequences of some grand design.
I discovered yesterday that a friend from ‘the old neighborhood’ is now battling cancer, oddly, in his arm. He sought medical attention for what, at first glance, appeared to be an infection and, upon further investigation, turned out to be “very bad.” His doctors are recommending they “take the whole arm and hope that’s all of it” but there’s no telling. He has children and a wife who can’t possibly provide for them on her income alone. He is poised to lose his dominant arm, so, lacking education and white-collar credentials as he does, supporting his family in the best-case scenario of total recovery will prove a life-long strain.
I am reading The House on Mango Street with my sophomores right now, and the vignette “Born Bad” has been reverberating through the antechamber of my ruminations as I grope around in the pitch black for a door. Here’s a little piece:
I don’t know who decides who deserves to go bad. There was no evil in her birth. No wicked curse. One day I believe she was swimming, and the next day she was sick…Maybe the sky didn’t look the day she fell down. Maybe God was busy…But I think diseases have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone. Like my aunt who happened to be walking down the street one day in her Joan Crawford dress, in her funny felt hat with the black feather, cousin Totchy in one hand, baby Frank in the other” (Cisneros 59).
The old Greek legend says that the wheel of fate spins and spins, but three witches look on, clipping threads with a mechanical detachment to determine matters of life and death. It’s not that life is cruel so much as it is unconscious in its distribution of both fortune and catastrophe, so concepts of justice and entitlement are moot.