I am enthusiastic over humanity's extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuity. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday's fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem.
R. Buckminster Fuller
He that resigns his peace to little casualties, and suffers the course of his life to be interrupted for fortuitous inadvertencies or offences, delivers up himself to the direction of the wind, and loses all that constancy and equanimity which constitutes the chief praise of a wise man.
At quite uncertain times and places, The atoms left their heavenly path, And by fortuitous embraces, Engendered all that being hath. And though they seem to cling together, And form 'associations' here, Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether, And through the depths of space career.
James Clerk Maxwell
Composition is a side issue. Its role in my selection of photographs is a negative one at best. By which I mean that the fascination of a photograph is not in its eccentric composition but in what it has to say: its information content. And, on the other hand, composition always also has its own fortuitous rightness.
Whether fate or fortuitous, The voyage is incessant. Life is gratuitous, It's regrets recrudescent. We so blindly see adversely, Linear to some 'decree'. Sentenced by each other, To live this critically. To err is Human, Ironic that we divest. For any man who puts that past him, No misfortunes he has left.
Life is like the blink of an eye. What is that worth? Nothing. But the eye that blinks - that is something. I guess I blinked, on accident. Sometimes, though, I have found accidents to be the most fortuitous events in my life. You meet the one person who reminds you what you are, what you do, how to be happy.
They whose activity of imagination is often shifting the scenes of expectation, are frequently subject to such sallies of caprice as make all their actions fortuitous, destroy the value of their friendship, obstruct the efficacy of their virtues, and set them below the meanest of those who persist in their resolutions, execute what they design, and perform what they have promised.
The Artist submits from day to day to the fatal rhythm of the impulses of the universal world which encloses him, continual centre of sensations, always pliant, hypnotized by the marvels of nature which he loves, he scrutinizes. His eyes, like his soul, are in perpetual communion with the most fortuitous of phenomena.
Fortuitous mostly for me,Lady Holloway," she said, her gaze steadfast on her husband. "For without our being childhgood neighbors, I am certain that my husband woud never have found me." Michael's gaze lit with admiration, and he lifted his glass in her direction. "At some point I would have realized what I was missing, darling. An I would have come looking for you.
I see no reason to believe that a creator of protoplasm or primeval matter, if such there be, has any reason to be interested in our insignificant race in a tiny corner of the universe, and still less in us, as still more insignificant individuals. Again, I see no reason why the belief that we are insignificant or fortuitous should lessen our faith.
The body is a fortuitous concourse of atoms. There is no death for the body, only an exchange of atoms. Their changing places and taking different forms is what we call 'death.' It's a process which restores the energy level in nature that has gone down. In reality, nothing is born and nothing is dead.
And then, one acting class turned into two, turned into four, and then turned into, "I love this. I could do this for the rest of my life. But, I don't have a background in acting. I never acted in college, or did anything like that. How can I go about doing this?" That meant going to grad school and getting some training, and I did. I literally walked down the path. It was real fortuitous for me to walk by that school, that one morning.
And so, when the chips are down, I must say, though not without a sense of repugnance, that if you wish to show your belief in democracy, you also have to do so when you are in the minority, convinced both intellectually and, not least, in your innermost self, that the majority, in the name of democracy, is crushing everything you stand for and that means something to you, indeed, all that gives you the strength to endure, well, that gives a kind of meaning to your life, something that transcends your own fortuitous lot, one might say. When the heralds of democracy roar, triumphantly bawling out their vulgar victories day after day so that it really makes you suffer, as in my own case, you still have to accept it; I will not let anything else be said about me, he thought.
When we contemplate the world of Epicurus, and conceive the universe to be a fortuitous jumble of atoms, there is nothing grand in this idea. The clashing of atoms by blind chance has nothing in it fit to raise our conceptions, or to elevate the mind. But the regular structure of a vast system of beings, produced by creating power, and governed by the best laws which perfect wisdom and goodness could contrive, is a spectacle which elevates the understanding, and fills the soul with devout admiration.
The greatest dread of ordinary man is death, with its rude imposition interrupting fortuitous plans and fondest attachments with an unknown and unwelcome change. The yogi is a conqueror of the grief associated with death. By control of mind and life force and the development of wisdom, he makes friends with the change of consciousness called death-he becomes familiar with the state of inner calmness and aloofness from identification with the mortal body.
I like to summarize what I regard as the pedestal-smashing messages of Darwin's revolution in the following statement, which might be chanted several times a day, like a Hare Krishna mantra, to encourage penetration into the soul: Humans are not the end result of predictable evolutionary progress, but rather a fortuitous cosmic afterthought, a tiny little twig on the enormously arborescent bush of life, which, if replanted from seed, would almost surely not grow this twig again, or perhaps any twig with any property that we would care to call consciousness.
Stephen Jay Gould
How is it to be explained that something inside me revolts against the playing of obvious moves? Perhaps we may perceive the underlying reason in the fact that I derive satisfaction from seeking to reveal the concealed meaning of a position by means of maneuvering play and therefore I do not wish to see this satisfaction curtailed by a banal, more or less fortuitous decision. Naturally, this phenomenon is played out beneath the threshold of consciousness. The waking consciousness will, of course, in each individual case, give preference to the more rapid means of deciding the game.
It is conceivable that animal life might have the attribute of using the heat of surrounding matter, at its natural temperature, as a source of energy for mechanical effect . . . .The influence of animal or vegetable life on matter is infinitely beyond the range of any scientific enquiry hitherto entered on. Its power of directing the motions of moving particles, in the demonstrated daily miracle of our human free-will, and in the growth of generation after generation of plants from a single seed, are infinitely different from any possible result of the fortuitous concurrence of atoms.
Van Gogh on his brother's upcoming marriage: "It's because he's in Holland, where he's getting married one of these days. Now, while not denying the advantages of a marriage in the very least, once it has been done and one is quietly set up in one's home, the funereal pomp of the reception andc., the lamentable congratulations of two families (even civilized) at the same time, not to mention the fortuitous appearances in those pharmacist's jars where antediluvian civil or religious magistrates sit - my word - isn't there good reason to pity the poor unfortunate obliged to present himself armed with the requisite papers in the places where, with a ferocity unequalled by the cruellest cannibals, you're married alive on the low heat of the aforementioned funereal receptions.
I took my pill at eleven. An hour and half later I was sitting in my study, looking intently at a small glass vase. The vase contained only three flowers - a full-blown Belle of Portugal rose, shell pink with a hint at every petal's base of a hotter, flamier hue; a large magenta and cream-coloured carnation; and, pale purple at the end of its broken stalk, the bold heraldic blossom of an iris. Fortuitous and provisional, the little nosegay broke all the rules of traditional good taste. At breakfast that morning I had been struck by the lively dissonance of its colours. But that was no longer the point. I was not looking now at an unusual flower arrangement. I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation - the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence.
I wonder why he hastened to tell us that George Hearne was buried in the churchyard, and then added that naturally he was!' 'It's the natural place to be buried in, ' said I. 'Quite. That's just why it was hardly worth mentioning.' I felt then, just momentarily, just vaguely, as if my mind was regarding stray pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. The fancied ringing of the telephone bell last night was one of them, this burial of George Hearne in the churchyard was another, and, even more inexplicably, the ladder I had seen under the trees was a third. Consciously I made nothing whatever out of them, and did not feel the least inclination to devote any ingenuity to so fortuitous a collection of pieces. Why shouldn't I add, for that matter, our morning's bathe, or the gorse on the hillside? But I had the sensation that, though my conscious brain was presently occupied with piquet, and was rapidly growing sleepy with the day of sun and sea, some sort of mole inside it was digging passages and connecting corridors below the soil. ("Expiation")
The popular conception of any philosophical doctrine is necessarily imperfect, and very generally unjust. Lucretius is often alluded to as an atheistical writer, who held the silly opinion that the universe was the result of a fortuitous concourse of atoms readers are asked to consider how long letters must be shaken in a bag before a complete annotated edition of Shakespeare could result from the process; and after being reminded how much more complex the universe is than the works of Shakespeare, they are expected to hold Lucretius, with his teachers and his followers, in derision. A nickname which sticks has generally some truth in it, and so has the above view, but it would be unjust to form our judgment of a man from his nickname alone, and we may profitably consider what the real tenets of Lucretius were, especially now that men of science are beginning, after a long pause in the inquiry, once more eagerly to attempt some explanation of the ultimate constitution of matter.
There is, of course, some comfort to be derived from the thought that everything that occurs at the level of secondary causality - in nature or history - is governed not only by a transcendent providence but by a universal teleology that makes every instance of pain and loss an indispensable moment in a grand scheme whose ultimate synthesis will justify all things. But one should consider the price at which the comfort is purchased: it requires us to believe in and love a God whose good ends will be realized not only in spite of - but entirely by way of - every cruelty, every fortuitous misery, every catastrophe, every betrayal, every sin the world has ever known; it requires us to believe in the eternal spiritual necessity of a child dying an agonizing death from diphtheria, of a young mother ravaged by cancer, of tens of thousands of Asians swallowed in an instant by the sea, of millions murdered in death camps and gulags and forced famines (and so on). It is a strange thing indeed to seek peace in a universe rendered morally intelligible at the cost of a God rendered morally loathsome.
David Bentley Hart
The Divine decree is the necessary condition of the Divine foreknowledge. If God does not first decide what shall come to pass, he cannot know what will come to pass. An event must be made certain, before it can be known as a certain event. In order that a man may foreknow an act of his own will, he must first have decided to perform it. So long as he is undecided about a particular volition, he cannot foreknow this volition. Unless God had determined to create a world, he could not know that there would be one. For the world cannot create itself, and there is but one being who can create it. If therefore this being has not decided to create a world, there is no certainty that a world will come into existence ; and if there is no certainty of a world, there can be no certain foreknowledge of a world. So long as anything remains undecreed, it is contingent and fortuitous. It may or may not happen. In this state of things, there cannot be knowledge of any kind. If a man had the power to cause an eclipse of the sun, and had decided to do this, he could then foreknow that the event would occur. But if he lacks the power, or if having the power, he has not formed the purpose, he can have no knowledge of any kind respecting the imagined event. He has neither knowledge nor foreknowledge, because there is nothing to be known. Blank ignorance is the mental condition.
Nature of the Desire for Change: There is in us a tendency to locate the shaping forces of our existence outside ourselves. Success and failure are unavoidably related in our minds with the state of things around us. Hence it is that people with a sense of fulfillment think it a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change. The tendency to look for all causes outside ourselves persists even when it is clear that our state of being is the product of personal qualities such as ability, character, appearance, health and so on. 'If anything ail a man, ' says Thoreau, 'so that he does not perform his functions, if he have a pain in his bowels even ... he forthwith sets about reforming-the world.' It is understandable that those who fail should incline to blame the world for their failure. The remarkable thing is that the successful, too, however much they pride themselves on their foresight, fortitude, thrift and other 'sterling qualities, ' are at bottom convinced that their success is the result of a fortuitous combination of circumstances. The self-confidence of even the consistently successful is never absolute. They are never sure that they know all the ingredients which go into the making of their success. The outside world seems to them a precariously balanced mechanism, and so long as it ticks in their favor they are afraid to tinker with it. Thus the resistance to change and the ardent desire for it spring from the same conviction, and the one can be as vehement as the other.
You frequently state, and in your letter you imply, that I have developed a completely one-sided outlook and look at everything in terms of science. Obviously my method of thought and reasoning is influenced by a scientific training - if that were not so my scientific training will have been a waste and a failure. But you look at science (or at least talk of it) as some sort of demoralizing invention of man, something apart from real life, and which must be cautiously guarded and kept separate from everyday existence. But science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated. Science, for me, gives a partial explanation of life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment. Your theories are those which you and many other people find easiest and pleasantest to believe, but so far as I can see, they have no foundation other than they leaf to a pleasanter view of life (and an exaggerated idea of our own importance)... I agree that faith is essential to success in life (success of any sort) but I do not accept your definition of faith, i.e. belief in life after death. In my view, all that is necessary for faith is the belief that by doing our best we shall come nearer to success and that success in our aims (the improvement of the lot of mankind, present and future) is worth attaining. Anyone able to believe in all that religion implies obviously must have such faith, but I maintain that faith in this world is perfectly possible without faith in another world... It has just occurred to me that you may raise the question of the creator. A creator of what?... I see no reason to believe that a creator of protoplasm or primeval matter, if such there be, has any reason to be interested in our significant race in a tiny corner of the universe, and still less in us, as still more significant individuals. Again, I see no reason why the belief that we are insignificant or fortuitous should lessen our faith - as I have defined it.
Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and I affirm that tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind. Constantly then give to thyself this retreat, and renew thyself; and let thy principles be brief and fundamental, which, as soon as thou shalt recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send thee back free from all discontent with the things to which thou returnest. For with what art thou discontented? With the badness of men? Recall to thy mind this conclusion, that rational animals exist for one another, and that to endure is a part of justice, and that men do wrong involuntarily; and consider how many already, after mutual enmity, suspicion, hatred, and fighting, have been stretched dead, reduced to ashes; and be quiet at last.- But perhaps thou art dissatisfied with that which is assigned to thee out of the universe.- Recall to thy recollection this alternative; either there is providence or atoms, fortuitous concurrence of things; or remember the arguments by which it has been proved that the world is a kind of political community, and be quiet at last.- But perhaps corporeal things will still fasten upon thee.- Consider then further that the mind mingles not with the breath, whether moving gently or violently, when it has once drawn itself apart and discovered its own power, and think also of all that thou hast heard and assented to about pain and pleasure, and be quiet at last.- But perhaps the desire of the thing called fame will torment thee.- See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present, and the emptiness of applause, and the changeableness and want of judgement in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at last. For the whole earth is a point, and how small a nook in it is this thy dwelling, and how few are there in it, and what kind of people are they who will praise thee.
Rarely do wonder tales end unhappily. They triumph over death. The tale begins with "Once upon a time" or "Once there was" and never really ends when it ends. The ending is actually the beginning. The once upon a time is not a past designation but futuristic: the timelessness of the tale and its lack of geographical specificity endow it with utopian connotations - "utopia" in its original meaning designated "no place, " a place that no one had ever envisaged. We form and keep the utopian kernel of the tale safe in our imaginations with hope. The significance of the paradigmatic functions of the wonder tale is that they facilitate recall for teller and listeners. They enable us to store, remember, and reproduce the utopian spirit of the tale and to change it to fit our experiences and desires, owing to the easily identifiable characters who are associated with particular assignments and settings... The characters, settings, and motifs are combined and varied according to specific functions to induce wonder, It is this sense of wonder that distinguished the wonder tales from such other oral tales as the legend, the fable, the anecdote, and the myth; it is clearly the sense of wonder that distinguishes the literary fairy tale from the moral story, novella, sentimental tale, and other modern short literary genres. Wonder causes astonishment, and as manifested in a marvelous object or phenomenon, it is often regarded as a supernatural occurrence and can be an omen or a portent, It gives rise to admiration, fear, awe, and reverence. The Oxford Universal Dictionary states that wonder is "the emotion excited by the perception of something novel and unexpected, or inexplicable; astonishment mingled with perplexity or bewildered curiosity." In the oral wonder tale, we are to wonder about the workings of the universe, where anything can happen at any time, and these happy or fortuitous events are never to be explained. Nor do the characters demand an explanation - they are opportunistic, are encouraged to be so, and if they do not take advantage of the opportunity that will benefit them in their relations with others, they are either dumb or mean-spirited. The tales seek to awaken our regard for the miraculous condition of life and to evoke in a religious sense profound feelings of awe and respect for life as a miraculous process, which can be altered and changed to compensate for the lack of power, wealth, and pleasure that is most people's lot. Lack, deprivation, prohibition, and interdiction motivate people to look for signs of fulfillment and emancipation. In the wonder tales, those who are naive and simple are able to succeed because they are untainted and can recognize the wondrous signs. They have retained their belief in the miraculous condition of nature, revere nature in all its aspects. They have hot been spoiled by conventionalism, power, or rationalism. In contrast to the humble characters, the villains are those who use words intentionally to exploit, control, transfix, incarcerate, and destroy for their benefit. They have no respect or consideration for nature and other human beings, and they actually seek to abuse magic by preventing change and causing everything to be transfixed according to their interests. Enchantment equals petrification. Breaking the spell equals emancipation. The wondrous protagonist wants to keep the process of natural change flowing and indicates possibilities for overcoming the obstacles that prevent other characters or creatures from living in a peaceful and pleasurable way.
We are all poor; but there is a difference between what Mrs. Spark intends by speaking of 'slender means', and what Stevens called our poverty or Sartre our need, besoin. The poet finds his brief, fortuitous concords, it is true: not merely 'what will suffice, ' but 'the freshness of transformation, ' the 'reality of decreation, ' the 'gaiety of language.' The novelist accepts need, the difficulty of relating one's fictions to what one knows about the nature of reality, as his donnee. It is because no one has said more about this situation, or given such an idea of its complexity, that I want to devote most of this talk to Sartre and the most relevant of his novels, La Nausee. As things go now it isn't of course very modern; Robbe-Grillet treats it with amused reverence as a valuable antique. But it will still serve for my purposes. This book is doubtless very well known to you; I can't undertake to tell you much about it, especially as it has often been regarded as standing in an unusually close relation to a body of philosophy which I am incompetent to expound. Perhaps you will be charitable if I explain that I shall be using it and other works of Sartre merely as examples. What I have to do is simply to show that La Nausee represents, in the work of one extremely important and representative figure, a kind of crisis in the relation between fiction and reality, the tension or dissonance between paradigmatic form and contingent reality. That the mood of Sartre has sometimes been appropriate to the modern demythologized apocalypse is something I shall take for granted; his is a philosophy of crisis, but his world has no beginning and no end. The absurd dishonesty of all prefabricated patterns is cardinal to his beliefs; to cover reality over with eidetic images-illusions persisting from past acts of perception, as some abnormal children 'see' the page or object that is no longer before them -to do this is to sink into mauvaise foi. This expression covers all comfortable denials of the undeniable-freedom -by myths of necessity, nature, or things as they are. Are all the paradigms of fiction eidetic? Is the unavoidable, insidious, comfortable enemy of all novelists mauvaise foi? Sartre has recently, in his first instalment of autobiography, talked with extraordinary vivacity about the roleplaying of his youth, of the falsities imposed upon him by the fictive power of words. At the beginning of the Great War he began a novel about a French private who captured the Kaiser, defeated him in single combat, and so ended the war and recovered Alsace. But everything went wrong. The Kaiser, hissed by the poilus, no match for the superbly fit Private Perrin, spat upon and insulted, became 'somehow heroic.' Worse still, the peace, which should instantly have followed in the real world if this fiction had a genuine correspondence with reality, failed to occur. 'I very nearly renounced literature, ' says Sartre. Roquentin, in a subtler but basically similar situation, has the same reaction. Later Sartre would find again that the hero, however assiduously you use the pitchfork, will recur, and that gaps, less gross perhaps, between fiction and reality will open in the most close-knit pattern of words. Again, the young Sartre would sometimes, when most identified with his friends at the lycee, feel himself to be 'freed at last from the sin of existing'-this is also an expression of Roquentin's, but Roquentin says it feels like being a character in a novel. How can novels, by telling lies, convert existence into being? We see Roquentin waver between the horror of contingency and the fiction of aventures. In Les Mots Sartre very engagingly tells us that he was Roquentin, certainly, but that he was Sartre also, 'the elect, the chronicler of hells' to whom the whole novel of which he now speaks so derisively was a sort of aventure, though what was represented within it was 'the unjustified, brackish existence of my fellow-creatures.