We create “rituals” for winning, and adhere to them so loyally that even when we’re actually losing, we stay doing them because they give a sense of control. If you look at the relationship between cognition and behavior you see this over and over again: So often underneath that thing you can’t seem to stop doing there’s a belief, and then a set of behavioral codes that stem from that belief. And even when the behaviors are totally messing up your life, you’re so fused with the rules that you can’t see contingencies (Nine of Swords). You’re oblivious to the ways life is unfolding on its own terms and the role that chance plays in your experience, regardless of your agenda (Four of Cups). In a moment I’m going to argue that not seeing contingency and chance is a massive missed opportunity for new growth.
I often think about practices like yoga or dance or meditation, where we train ourselves to be in the moment, and I think about why that’s helpful. I think that if we can tune our ears to what’s actually happening, we suffer less. Think about how many times you’ve suffered because you had an idea about what things were supposed to be that didn’t line up with what they were. And how at times it wasn’t even the reality that was disturbing you as much as it was this entitled sense that it was supposed to be like this. I think our inability or outright refusal to see, acknowledge and honor the natural contingencies of life—the things that don’t go according to plan or that veer from the fantasy—is a huge problem for us.
Milan Kundera has written that “Everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. Only chance can speak to us.”
We create patterns in our lives through behaviors. Those patterns come together to form a tight fabric that carries us through life, and gives us a sense that things are stable (Ten of Pentacles). It is an irrefutable fact of life that sometimes this fabric rips or tears—you can’t go the route you like to go, the thing you spend months planning for didn’t go as you'd hoped, the projected outcome wasn’t the one you got—so then what? The way many of us relate to these experiences is by hating them.
But what if these moments were actually worthy to be praised? The only ones capable of generating new life? What if, as Kundera wrote, these moments alone were the ones capable of bringing the messages we truly need? Lewis Hyde writes, “Through such pores, gaps, and fleeting openings slips the buried gold, the waddling tortoise, the song of a starling—chance encounters that cannot be derived from the structures that surround us.”
What on earth am I talking about? Well it’s very specific, actually. Also it’s hopelessly vague. It is a call, a simple one, really, to embrace the ambiguous, the vague, the confusing. To broaden our awareness to accommodate the incohesive, the disorderly and the nonsensical.
I wonder if we could learn to appreciate disruption as an opening, fall so in love with the potential that lives inside mishap and contingency that we might even come to call ourselves inviters and harvesters of chance. If, in an almost midwifing capacity we might learn to scan the horizons for the unexpected, be like shepherds and torch bearers that escort freshness into being (Ace of Wands).
Much of what happens to us in life is nameless because our vocabulary is too poor. Most stories get told out loud because the storyteller hopes that the telling of the story can transform a nameless event into a familiar or or intimate one. We tend to associate intimacy with closeness and closeness with a certain sum of shared experiences. Yet every day total strangers, who will never say a single word to one another, can share an intimacy. An intimacy contained in the exchange of a glance, a nod of the head, a smile, a shrug of a shoulder. A closeness which lasts for a second or for the duration of a song being sung and listened to together. An agreement about life. An agreement without clauses.
∆ John Berger, from Some Notes About Song (for Yasmin Hamdan), Confabulations
To think outside narrative history requires reworking linear temporality. It requires “the rewriting of the senses” (Jacqui Alexander's words) in order to apprehend an expanded range of temporal experiences––experiences not regulated by “clock” time or by a conceptualization of the present as singular and fleeting; experiences not narrowed by the idea that time moves steadily forward, that it is scarce, that we live on only one temporal plane.
11 blocks • over 2 years ago