Underneath an elm Admiral Nano drowsed. He listened to life around him. The whispering breeze made small ripples on the blue plain of a small lake. Ships of white clouds slipped across the ocean of sky. Leaves called to each other in hushed tones. Birds sang to one another in tall trees. Insects hummed a chorus. The occasional smack of a trout or bass on the water heralded another dragonfly snatched for a meal. These were the sounds of life. Part of life were two people not far away from Nano, ‘Cowboy’ Bill and ‘Fisherman’ Peter’.
On the ground near Nano was a large bass. Fisherman had caught it from the small river they had gone to not far from Aurora IL where the homeless shelter the three of them lived was located.
“I guess fate was kind to us today”, said Cowboy.
“If fate was kind, we’d be able to grill this fish. We have no grill or charcoal.” Peter Fisherman looked at the plump fish sadly. “They’ll probably be serving sloppy-joes for dinner this evening. Here we sit with a beautiful fish we can’t cook. We should have let it go.”
Nano opened his eyes and looked at the fish. It did look nice. Fish wasn’t something he had tasted yet as that kind of fare was beyond the purses of churches feeding homeless people. In fact, often the shelter guests got only the barest of meals. It was just two days since their supper had been the equivalent of a ball park bowl of cheese covered nachos. True, there was a smattering of beef and onions, but the bowl had been small and it was a snack, not a meal. There had been no seconds, no desert, no bread, no fruit, no vegetables and only water to drink. It had been disgustingly pathetic. Many had commented that night that the volunteers that had showed up might as well had stayed home than come to a shelter with several hundred hungry people and serve them nearly nothing. Then again, it had tasted good, there was just very little of it. That kind of thing happened all the time at the shelter, assuming there was any meal to eat.
“Maybe we can collect some wood and cook it” said Cowboy.
“What are we gonna use for a grill then”, ask Fisherman.
“We can cook it on a stick” Cowboy replied, then reconsidering the size of the fish, “or a branch.”
They went off to find a good stout branch and some loose deadwood to burn. The two fishermen had invited Nano to come with them, but had no third rod or reel for him to use. Nano had accepted anyway, pleased to be away from the nasty warehouse with it’s black, unhealthy soot covered filth, the loudmouths, drunks and abusive folks at the shelter. A quiet day with two friendly people appealed to him and he wanted some relative peace to think about all he had observed so far in his brief stay at the Aurora, IL shelter. The river had been a short drive into the country in Cowboy’s pickup truck. Most homeless had no vehicles, especially legally licensed ones. They’d stopped for some worms to use as bait, but when they say the fish jumping out of the water to snatch dragonfly, they made the switch. Catching a small supply of dragonflies stuck in spider webs in trees around the area, Nano had watched Fisherman and Cowboy hook the small creatures and cast them on delicate mono-filament lines. The bass had enjoyed them and all that had been caught had been returned promptly to the water except this one nice large bass they wanted to eat.
It took little time to arrange the dead wood and light it with a cigarette lighter. Having properly dressed the fish it was soon cooking quickly over the small bright fire on a good pointed stick. There was no potato or coleslaw or tartar sauce, but it promised to be a good meal if it wasn’t burned. As the three sat around watching it cook, each contemplating the meal to come, Cowboy picked up a thought he’d mentioned earlier.
“I sometimes wonder about fate. If you would have ask me when I was a young man if I’d end up in a homeless shelter in Aurora or anywhere else, I would have said no. I worked a long time for the railroad to earn a pension and retire. It’s hard to believe my pension is gone and I’ve got nearly nothing now. Is that fate? I’m not really sure what fate is. Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to have my best interests in mind.”
Cowboy looked over at Fisherman. The two of them often had these kind of conversations to pass the time. That didn’t mean they always arrived at real understanding or consensus, but it was like them to consider the peculiarities of subjects like this. Nano recalled them having a few talks like this, usually off a bit by themselves where they were not being interrupted by the other guests of the shelter who had no such interest in cerebral subjects. They’d invited Nano to join them anytime he’d felt like it, determining somehow that his presence wouldn’t be destructive, that he’d listen and if he had some comment, it would be serious or at least poignantly humorous in a connected way.
Fisherman fiddled with a bright ember with a poking stick. Finally he offered his bit. “I don’t know what fate is. Fate always seems to have something else in mind other than what I want. It surely doesn’t seem kind. I don’t even know if there is fate. If there is, I wish it would leave me alone so I can do what I want to do.”
“What do you think Fate is Nano”, said Cowboy, politely trying to involve him in conversation even though normally Nano just listened. Some people had come to the habit of saying things to Nano to tease him for his rumored statement that he was an admiral of a space fleet, treating him with a combination of small ridicule and the desire to hear him say something else they could use against him because he was crazy. Cowboy wasn’t doing that, but neither did he expect Nano to comment, usually he just shrugged, but every once in a while, depending on company, he said some peculiar things, which Cowboy found interesting.
“Cowboy, your statement about Fate is similar to what is often called Destiny. That ordering of life into inevitable linear consequences which are unavoidable and often attributed to gods and other divine beings for purposes only they know. Fisherman, your view of Fate is more like it is a being with intelligent intent which serves its’ own needs and interests, meddling into your life but with no wisdom or concern for your happiness.” He paused a bit to let the two consider that, then he continued.
“Instead of thinking of Fate as destiny or as an intelligent but dispassionate entity, try a third perspective, if only for the sake of comparison. Try thinking of Fate as a cosmic influence along the lines of a force, as in physics. Think of it as neither an entity with intelligence or a step by step plan of destiny. Think instead of Fate as a fundamental reality of existence which for the lack of it there would be chaos. Think of it as the ‘light’ of life that gives meaning to being. If it is so, then you come to other possible ways of dealing with it. What would they be?”
Admiral Nano had spoken slowly, not because they would not understand what he said, but Cowboy and Fisherman would not understand what he was implying. As he spoke, with purpose and emphasis carefully, making small gestures which gave more subtle importance to his phrases, he looked at them carefully, using his body language and demeanor to help them focus on the ideas he was proposing they think about. Only in the second, fourth and fifth sentence was the meat of what he proposed, so it had been brief and condensed.
When ask after a few moments, he repeated those very lines. They had it then and for a while there was only the snapping of embers and the hiss of fish dripping fat into the fire, a most delicious smell.
Finally, Fisherman stirred from his thoughts. “That is a lot to think about. It’s pretty strange idea. I’m not sure what that implies, ‘a force fundamental to the existence of reality’. I can see how if that’s true the lack of it might be chaos.”
Cowboy was looking at Fisherman, then turned to continue at Nano. “I’d like to say that is some sort of fancy nonsense, but I can’t look at you and say that. You obviously have some well thought out ideas there, whether they’re true or not. That part about ‘light of life giving meaning to being’ is weird. I don’t know what that means. It sounds good, but I’ll have to think about it.”
Nano smiled. “That’s understandable. Normally how life came to be is explained on Earth one of two ways. The first is the ‘will of God’, an omnipotent and omniscient being. The second, Darwinian evolution based on mutation of DNA, or what is the study of genetics. Let me add an idea. There are two concepts about existence typically left out of those two explanations of how things came to be. They are Life and Fate. Neither can exist alone, only together. Consider them fundamental twin cosmic forces that in any reality or dimension are always necessary. They have to exist before there can be anything or any entity. If you start there as an assumption for the sake of discussion, laying aside any doubts and treating those points as given, then you can make decent progress on what Fate actually might be and why it is connected to Life. Be forewarned though, that while I can help you focus on this possibility, it will require you to spend some time seriously contemplating and temporarily ridding yourself of the propaganda and brainwashing that inhibits such unusual ideas. If you can’t do that, you’ll gain nothing.”
“I see how that goes with the other thing you said before, sorta.” Fisherman replied as he and Cowboy nodded at each and what Nano was implying sank in. It was a lot to think over, but at least they had a starting point if they wanted to follow it.
Cowboy interjected, “Hey, the fish is ready to eat”. All three looked at the roasted fish which smelled wonderful. As they ate, Fisherman and Cowboy contemplated Nano’s point of view. Nano let his mind return to nature, the great abundant diversity of life which surrounded the threesome.
Life, that mysterious unknown force that drives all things in all planes of existence. Fate, that which gives Life meaning, guides it and makes it meaningful. Taking many forms in many realities, these two forces were the requirements to all else.