Traveling increases my odds of tragedy. Horror must land on someone eventually and I put myself at its mercy every couple of months. Trains, planes, boats, subways, bikes and Ubers, getting lost and drunk walking down dark and unknown alleyways, talking to strangers, eating weird meats, sleeping in unmarked bed and breakfasts. I’m living my life to the fullest but my chances of ending up as tonight’s top story on the news is much higher than yours unless you are doing the exact same thing.
Who are these poor, unfortunate individuals to whom death pays a visit while they are innocently studying abroad or traveling on holiday? One minute I am Googling the best places to eat in some small city called Rovigo and the next, my train flips on its side over a ravine, crashing to my death in a fiery blaze. What the hell is that? Just like that. Dead. As a ghost I’d like to ask: was there anything I could have done to prevent this? Was my future already written in the stars? As I’m on the train writing this I’ve been trying to decide if I’m special in any way. How important am I to the world? Do people need me? My hope is that my (particular) fate protects me and keeps me alive as long as possible. Not just me: everybody on this train with me. For (if fate will have it) I’m not going to die here today then it’s likely everybody else is safe, too. Say this universe needs me around a while longer then I create a safety bubble for others wherever I go.
People fear death more than anything and most of us are too paralyzed by anxiety to live. We choose to believe in destiny in terms of big, grand gestures we need to accomplish like experiencing this adventure or achieving this or that feat but in reality these moments are few and far between in our lives. Destiny seems to me much more about the small, mundane aspects of our lives. Things like helping an old lady across the street, buying a coffee for a stranger, giving advice to a friend, and being a part of other people’s stories as much as our own.
I believe there is an interconnected whole, and as Terrence McKenna once so eloquently postulated, a big transcendental object at the end of the time pulling us toward it. In other words, everything has already been pre-determined, the end has already occurred, we are simply catching up to it. As such, every seemingly inconsequential action or movement is a part of way more dynamic and complex pattern we just can’t see. We can’t see it because we’re in it. For good reason. Imagine if you went to a psychic medium, glimpsed into the future and saw you were about to do It would make life impossible to live.
I began thinking about this a lot today after we were rushing to catch our first train to Florence, Italy. A ride that, had we been even one minute later to catch we would have missed completely. A man staggered toward us in the station as asked if we knew which platform to board for his route. We weren’t sure, but the interaction opened up a dialogue that got us thinking about whether or not we were boarding the correct train. In short, that conversation made us realize there was another step we needed to board. Luckily, we made it just in time. Had that man not have entered our reality in that exact moment we would have missed everything. Alas we went our separate ways and that man, who completely disappeared like a ghost in the night. These are examples of destiny in our lives I’m talking about.
Ironically, a story about near-death experiences came to me about halfway through my train ride. A young man named, Simon sat across me and began telling me things. He cheated death twice. Once in his European factory where a tornado haunted the air and another time when there was gas leak at the same place. As one of the characters in the film, Final Destination said, “It’s not my time.” Apparently, Simon has more unfinished business here on this mortal coil; one piece being talking to me. None of us will ever know until perhaps we are on our deathbeds reflecting backwards on our life why we did the things we did. Steve Jobs has this wonderful quote about innovation, saying, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward.” So too, our lives can only move in one direction: forward. There is no need looking back until we’re, well, dead.
And if you find your time is near please understand that it was fated as such. It really takes the whole stress of living away when you think about it this way. There is nothing you can do about it either way. Just ride it out. Author, Chuck Palahnuik sums it up perfectly:
“What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher. What we can’t understand we call nonsense. What we can’t read we call gibberish. There is no free will. There are no variables. There is only the inevitable.”