A Thought for A Sunday after Meeting Two Men Carrying a Dobro The Night Before

If we do not dwell on the risk of sudden disaster and pay a price for our innocence, it is because reality comprises two cruelly confusing characteristics: on the one hand, continuity and reliability lasting across generations; on the other, unheralded cataclysm. We find ourselves divided between a plausible invitation to assume that tomorrow will be much like today and the possibility that we will met with an appalling event after which nothing will ever be the same again. It is because we have such powerful incentives to neglect the latter that we must consider fortune.

The ancient goddess Fortune was found on the back of many Roman coins, holding a cornucopia in one hand and a rudder in the other. She was beautiful, and usually wore a light tunic and a coy smile. She had originated as a fertility goddess, the firstborn of Zeus, and was honored with a festival on the 25th of May and with temples throughout the land, visited by the barren and farmers in search of rain. But gradually her remit had widened, she had become associated with money, advancement, love and health. The cornucopia was a symbol of her power to bestow favors, the rudder of a symbol of her more sinister power to change destinies. She could scatter gifts, then with terrifying speed shift the rudder's course, maintaining an imperturbable smile as she watched us choke to death on a fishbone or disappear in a landslide.

Because we are injured most by what we do not expect, and because we must expect everything - There is nothing which Fortune does not dare .

We must hold the possibility of disaster in mind at all times. No one should undertake a journey by car, or walk down the stairs, or say goodbye to a friend - without an awareness, which I would wish would be neither gruesome nor unnecessarily dramatic, of fatal possibilities.

For evidence of how little is needed for all to come to nothingness, we have only to hold up our wrists to study for a moment the pulses of blood through our fragile, greenish veins:

"What is man? A vessel that the slightest shaking, the slightest toss will break... A body weak and fragile, naked, in its original state defenseless, dependent upon another's help and exposed to all the affronts of Fortune" - Seneca

We must be ever wary of our senses guiding us to safety, knowing that they are bound to the Earth, and to the space time well in which we have lived our entire lives. Our eyes are tuned to the spectrum of light best given by a dying star, our ears to the narrow band of sound that might best represent the oncoming predator who stalks us in the forest, and our hands to grasp things kept on a scale that is dwarfed by the smallest of stellar objects.

To reach beyond your senses, and to test your reason against faith is a difficult. For faith is the bird that sings when the hour before dawn is darkest. And yet, to follow the heart - and to express your primal desire - to make yourself better, to make others better, and to weather the vicissitudes of fortune. When we are not shocked by the horror of failure, but see it as a path forward through adversity of either our own making or by the actions of others, or simply, the throw weight of an ancient fertility goddess who now no longer wishes simply to be the goddess of money - then we may still apply ourselves to the task at hand, taking it apart if necessary, reworking the things that do not work, and moving forward. We must make good decisions. And we must remind ourselves of the cost of bad decisions.

And we must always remember that every decision we make, holds consequences, hidden or otherwise. As the wings of a butterfly can change the entire weather pattern of the world - so too can a man, or a woman, in their path to fortune, find his or her life and work in play to change the entire fate of the universe. Granted, the cup of hot chocolate I have in my hand right now exerts a gravitational pull on the Phoenix Nebula, by an amount so slight as to be almost non existent. But it does exist.

And so, 2020 years ago as the light from a star in the Phoenix Nebula reached our planet, perhaps there was a race of good men living on a planet around that star. But at the far edges of what had been the star's planetary system, perhaps as our own double dwarven Charon and Pluto - one small planet may have survived extinction. We are all in the gutter, reaching toward the stars. Perhaps, as we continue forward, as a species - moving ever outward, leaving behind the lost past and moving to an uncertain future - men may one day land on that horribly burned planet whose fortunes had been erased in a single split second of a dying star's moment - and in the center of the Phoenix Nebula, we would find all life burned away.

But perhaps the rocky structure of the planet will have survived, and we may stand upon its barren plain. And when our exploring team reaches that surface, they may find that the people whose lives there thousands of years before had foreseen the extinction of their society, had compiled a record of what life had been like on their plausible invitation to enjoy the final days of their world, green and beautiful as ours - and by means of stored data - perhaps woven into the fabric of space and time, or stored in the very essence of the living matter in flash drives of a capacity yet unknown, they explained to us what life had been like - the great cities, the accumulated knowledge, the happy lives. And the picture of that society would be so enviable that we would wonder why God, in order to send his Planet Earth a signal in the year 4 BC, had set ablaze this great nova so that its light might guide three wise men to Bethlehem, while this remote planet with a civilization far more advanced than Earth's had all its living forms of life scorched away.