Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Knausgaard on Fate

In the last volume of his 3,600-page autobiographical novel, Karl Ove Knausgaard reflects on hearing from an old friend who appeared in the first volume:
The number of people we come close to during our lives is small, and we fail to realize how infinitely important each and every one of them is to us until we grow older and can see things from afar. When I was sixteen, I thought life was without end, the number of people in it inexhaustible. . . . But what I didn’t know, or rather had absolutely no conception of, was that every step I took was defining me, every person I encountered leaving their mark on me, and that the life I was living at that particular time, boundlessly arbitrary as it seemed, was in fact my life. That one day I would look back on my life, and this would be what I looked back on. What then had been insignificant, as weightless as air, a series of events dissolving in exactly the same way as the darkness dissolved in the mornings, would twenty years on seem laden with destiny and fate.
James Camp comments:
The transformation of the arbitrary into the inevitable, of the insignificant into fate: There is no more beautiful statement in all of My Struggle of its great theme. In its long, wandering sentences, in which so much that is unalike is swept up and suspended, the grammar seems to stretch to accommodate this contradiction: that details mean both nothing and everything.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Fate and Destiny is the comforting lie that people tell themselves as they get older and nearer to death, because their egos care too much about their supposed "legacy" being neat and tidy, in turn because they've never been able to accept their own insignificance in the universe.

I embrace the knowledge that my existence is fundamentally absurd; that my entire life is the product of an incalculably complex, vast, and arbitrary collection of random outcomes and imperfectly decided choices; that the notion of "legacy" is absurd, since it will affect me not one jot and may in fact do great harm to others once I am gone.

Fate? Nonsense. We tell us ourselves stories, we invent narratives, not because they accurately represent the nature of reality, existence, and the universe, but because they are comforting to our limited ape brains.

Why should the universe care about what becomes of us? What astounding arrogance to think that we're important enough in the grand scheme of things to be worthy of the interventions of such a force as Fate! That we as specific individuals are somehow -meant- to arrive at a certain specific outcome! How utterly absurd! What hubris of the highest order! To think the universe is even capable of caring about us!

No, far more likely that an aging man reflecting on his life feels unsettled by the randomness that they see so many signs of within it, and starts doing what we apes always do - try to find patterns in the noise, try to find meaning in the absurdity.

Some old acquaintance reconnects with you just as you're thinking about them and writing a book which includes them? Ahh, yes - surely that can't be coincidence, the likes of which happens trillions of times daily! It must be Fate! The universe arranged for that to happen! It wasn't aribtrary serendipity - it was portentuous destiny! It wasn't just meaningful personally - it has to have also been meaningful cosmically!