Sunday, 17 July 2016

"Toward The Best..."

"'The trend of events must ever seem toward the best, since it is toward the one observing the trend.'"
-Poul Anderson, Twilight World (Sphere Books, London, 1984), Epilogue, p. 179.

Sometimes, a passage in a novel can be extracted from its context and read just as a comment on life. I doubt this one. If the speaker had been living in extreme poverty or under a brutal dictatorship, then he would have been asking where history had gone wrong. I think that the twentieth century would have been better without the Holocaust even though, in that case, I would not have been here to assess it.

Some generalizations are applicable not only to history but also to individual lives. It can seem as if :

There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will,--
-copied from here

I emphasize "can" and "as if" because surely many lives are random, chaotic and unpleasant? None of us should generalize from our own experience. I have wound up in a comfortable retirement even though I have done little to deserve it. I valued neither career success nor material prosperity but philosophical understanding. I have approached understanding partly by lingering at University and partly by chance. For example, an independent school lost its Master in Charge of Religious Education in 1980, then ran into financial difficulties and had to lay off some part time staff in 1981. If that RE Master had lasted for one more year or if the financial difficulties had occurred one year earlier, then his departure would have coincided with their need to shed staff. Instead, I replaced him for that one year and learned valuable lessons in the process. Without that and a few similar accidents, my life would have different and might have wound up in an uncomfortable retirement.

One pagan friend honors the goddess Fortuna who, paradoxically, personifies a scenario in which no person controls events.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I remember the bit you quoted from TWILIGHT WORLD, and I think the speaker or his companion, both mutated descendants of mankind, were skeptical of the truth of what that line said.

And of course I think the world have been far better off if the Sarajevo assassination had not occurred. It's hard to think or believe a world spared the World Wars, monsters like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc., would have been worse than what we have now.