The other day while waiting for my car to be retrieved by a valet, another valet who was waiting for new arrivals engaged me in conversation. It was one of those quick philosophical talks about life, its whimsies, its tricks, full of platitudes and cliches, but a pleasant exchange. The unpredictable cold weather started the conversation. It ended when he said, “Life is like an onion. We peel away the layers. Sometimes we cry.” With that, he helped my husband into the car.
It was a timely sharing. I’m at a stage in life where I feel life’s layers peeling away more rapidly which leads me into thoughts about fate, destiny and chance. It leads to unsettling questions that begin with, What if?
What if I hadn’t come to California?
What if I hadn’t taken that job?
What if I hadn’t met _______?
What would have happened if?
You can see how that rabbit hole could take a person on a long, thought-provoking journey. How it would make you become reflective, grateful or regretful.
Thinking about fate and its layers flowed into my quest for a title for my short story collection. This is my third quest. I have two other titles I’m thinking about waiting in the wings. Within the collection is a thread that could be identified as fate. Or is it luck? Or is it circumstance? This led me to investigate these enigmatic, over-lapping terms – fate, destiny, luck, chance, circumstance – which in turn re-acquainted me with The Three Fates, the Greek Goddesses known as Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.
Clotho is depicted as The Spinner. She is the Fate who spins the thread of life. Lachesis is the Fate who is the measurer of that Thread of Life. She decides how much life is given to each person and decides a person’s destiny. Atropos is the Fate who makes her sisters’ decisions irreversible. She is the cutter of the Thread of Life. Powerful gals.
One could conclude from The Three Fates that our lives are spun, measured and cut by others. Is that life path, once spun, guided by a supernatural power known as fate? Or is Man the master of his own destiny? Who or what controls the path? This opens the discussion to far-reaching philosophical searches and beliefs that man has pondered for a long time. I certainly don’t have an answer, but the exploration provokes the mind.
Back to my valet. I got to thinking about what he had said. I was familiar with Carl Sandburg’s words, “Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” I like my philosophical valet’s wording better. “Life is like an onion. We peel away the layers. Sometimes we cry.”
I enjoyed the exchange that day and for the thought exploration it led me on. Grist for thought and food for writing pop up in the most mysterious ways. Was it luck I ran into that valet? Or fate? A realist would say, “Look, you needed someone to park and retrieve your car.” I’ll leave you to your ponderings.