Thursday, August 26, 2010

MFEO.

A film about fate. Cute, but with
a questionable message.
I was listening to an old This American Life show today titled "Somewhere Out There." Basic question: Is there such thing as fate? Are we all destined to find that one special someone?

The show opens with a catchy math equation that makes you feel like you'll always be "just" a number. Of the hundreds and thousands of people in your city, you may think you've got a whole sea to fish from. But, in reality, your choices are not as big as the ocean might trick you into believing.

It's the premise of so many TV shows and movies: how do you find your "one true love"? And, by that concept, is there just one person out there for everyone? How do we know that at the end of every rom-com, the happy couple doesn't split up? Where's our guarantee that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan stay together in every one of their movies?

Lately, I've been adverse to these messages, finding them trite and unmoving. True love doesn't happen at first sight, and who knows if there is even such a thing as "true" love. Just when you thought you've found it, something happens. People split up, people get divorced. It's possible to fall out of love just as quickly as you fell into it. Also, is there only one person out there for everyone? And if so, how the fuck are you supposed to find that person in your short lifetime? What do you do when it feels like settling? Online dating sites like eHarmony and Match.com tell you that they'll help you find your One True Love, but what if your actual One True Love (you know, the one you're "supposed" to be with) is on a different dating site than you are. Or what if they're not on one at all. These websites are just pulling your best match from the pool of people who are using their services.

But I am, by no means, any sort of expert on this topic, so take my words as a series of over-thought smatterings.

Tangent aside. Back to This American Life: act one presented the story of an American professor who fell in love with a Chinese fiddle player. After hearing their story, you'd think they were destined to be together. My question, though, is how much of that is "fate" and how much of it is just a coincidence? (And do coincidences exist?) There are many reasons why they ended up together, but the one simple answer that we all like to use for situations like these is that of fate/destiny. "If it's meant to be, it'll happen," people have often said to me before. But I wonder: how much of that can we rely on? It almost seems like an excuse for people not to take control of their lives.

Somebody once described a situation to me as "grandma meets the Road Runner." (Ignore the inconsistencies in the universe and bear with me.) Grandma is driving home when suddenly the Road Runner, out of nowhere, crashes into her as he's running from the coyote. Both have different reasons for being on that road and neither of them were looking for the collision. But it happened and that's that, and now the two can proceed with their respective days (granted, granny and her car makes it out alive). Maybe after this, the two will have a long lifetime of interaction; maybe they'll never see each other again. So...is this something we leave up to fate to control for us? You meet a lot of people in your life. How many of them will you continue to know ten years from now? Five years? Or even five months? When do we stop relying on fate as a fallback and stop being passive in our lives and with the people in it?

I'm not sure if I'll ever have concrete answers to any of my questions, but it can't hurt to ponder them.

And that's it for the existential quandaries of the month.

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