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Fate and Fairness

The twins and I are always reading a book together, but the ChickieNob and I also have a side book going at the same time.  We currently started reading The Fault in Our Stars because she had picked it up at a bookstore and read the first few pages and laughed over Hazel’s sarcasm.

We were a few chapters into the book when she asked about the title, and I explained its ties to Julius Caesar and the idea of fate and the stars determining the length and quality and events of your life.  Cassius is telling Brutus the fault is not in their stars but their own personalities, and this idea is played with in John Green’s book: Who gets a long life and who gets a short life and who gets remembered and who gets forgotten… it’s all mostly a matter of chance.  And the odds were definitely not in these characters’ favour.

I decided to read her my favourite post by Susan Niebur, Toddler Planet, who died a few years back.  I bookmarked this post and return to it often because it is probably the most profound, important thing I have ever read on the Internet.  A big claim, yes, but I think if you read the whole post, you’ll agree.

She explains with a story:

Life is given to each of us.  We each get one shot at this sucker, and we are never really told that it will be fair.  We each get one life, one daily wage, and that’s it.  The guy next door gets one life to live.  The mom down the street gets one too.  No one ever promised us the same life, the same opportunities, the same blessings, or the same time to live.

If we look at it that way, we are all treated fairly by the universe.  Even when it doesn’t feel as if we are being treated fairly by the universe.  Can we really argue?  I mean, we’re given exactly what we were promised: A single life.  And what we do with that life, and the circumstances that we encounter while living it, are both in and out of our hands.

It has been hard to read this book aloud.  There are a lot of times when I need to pause and cry because it is so true, and so heartbreaking in its stark truth.  And I cried when I reached these lines in Susan’s post, now reading them after the fact and knowing she is gone:

I have everything I ever wanted.  Am I sometimes envious of others, who may get forty-plus more years on this Earth than I?  Sure.  But I was never promised 80 years. I was promised a life.  And boy, have I had a pretty incredible life.

I hope we all live incredible lives, too.  When I think that I’m not, I come back to this post and re-read it again and think, “Yes, that’s it.  I only have control over certain portions of my life, and the rest of chance.  So do what I can in the places I can.”  I aspire to one day have as much grace and wisdom and intelligence as Susan.  I may never be a NASA scientist like she was, but I will always be grateful that she placed down a path of words for us to walk down and glimpse inside that brilliant brain and see the world in a different way.

9 comments

1 Raven { 09.06.16 at 7:49 am }

Has it really been four years already since she passed? Wow. It went by so fast and yet, to her family, it has likely felt like a lifetime. She has a quote at the bottom of her “about me” page that really resonates with me on the importance of focusing on the words you leave behind and the people you love because that’s all that will remain.

The fault in our stars is so sad – the movie (have you seen the movie?) is as well. If I recall it was a fairly good representation of the book but it has been a while so don’t hold it against me if you don’t like it :-).

2 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.06.16 at 9:49 am }

I love this. That you made me zoom out and see my daily struggles — which loom large up close — in a different perspective.

And that really, the Universe has nothing to do with fairness. It just is. Things just are.

3 Sharon { 09.06.16 at 1:39 pm }

At age 45, I hope to live a lot longer — at a minimum, I would like to live to see my children grown, and if I could live to retirement, how great that would be! But even if I died tomorrow, I would feel that I have lived a wonderful life.

I have been blessed with a loving (though flawed) family of origin, many terrific friends, my husband, my children and meaningful work. I can truly say that, my bucket list aside, I have gotten all the things I really wanted out of life. 🙂

4 amelie { 09.06.16 at 2:45 pm }

A Man Said to the Universe By Stephen Crane
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

I keep this poem posted to remind me that it is my responsibility to live the best life that I can. No one else is going to do it for me….

5 Cristy { 09.06.16 at 3:29 pm }

In the hard moments, I struggle with fairness. That somehow the deck is stacked against me in a way that prevents me from reaching what I desire. But this idea that though we don’t start out equal, and our journeys will far be from equal, we are given a daily allotment of what to do in order to learn and grow, does strike a cord. That those struggles could actually be profound gifts as we learn the most from them and their impact can be generational. So that it isn’t the same, there’s a beauty there as it is ours truly to do with.

I remember reading about Susan’s passing and how it rocked so many in this community. It’s clear she was (is) an amazing human.

6 Justine { 09.06.16 at 8:16 pm }

We try to do the best we can with what we’re given. And even that … our best … is what it is. Terrifying and comforting at the same time. Thank you for this.

7 Jessica { 09.07.16 at 1:47 am }

Maybe the key is called Gratitude and it unlocks the negative mind. Even those born with a silver spoon in their mouth, have their fair share of downs in life.

8 Courtney { 09.08.16 at 9:58 am }

Thank you for this. I have been struggling a lot as my marriage comes to an end – my husband cannot seem to beat his alcoholism no matter how many and varied rehabs and interventions we do, and it’s put my kids in danger. I have spend my fair share of time asking “why me” and questioning whether I did everything I can – it’s especially confusing because my kids are very young and a lot of my friends are just beginning their lives. This post and the link to the blog really helped me and I think I’ll return to them frequently as i work to break out of self-pity and self-indulgence and embrace our brand new chapter.

9 Jess { 09.10.16 at 7:35 pm }

Oh wow. Oh yes. I read Susan’s whole post, and just cried. My husband wondered what the heck I was doing at the computer that was making me so sad (and it’s not entirely sad, the post…just thinking on the loss of who was obviously such a special person was incredibly sad to me). And yet, as sad as it made me, it made me think of what a life I have, even with the things that weren’t promised and haven’t come to fruition. I love The Fault In Our Stars, and I can imagine reading it aloud comes with many tears. Such a good reminder that everything is about chance, and what you do with the one life you’ve got, and that “fair” is a construct that doesn’t really exist in the way we often think about it. Thank you so much for sharing this and the post.

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