One problem with writing an autobiography is that the genre assumes that a human being can be separated from everything else. We are forced to adopt the convenient fiction that we are actors separate from the environment that has created us and envelops us.
We live in chaos. What happens happens. What happens happens as a totality and not from some individual “decision.” All decisions are illusions. No one ever decides anything. So an autobiography can at best be an illusion narrating illusions about illusions.
It is thus impossible to write an honest autobiography. When we write about ourselves it is always a liar telling lies about a liar. No difference at all whether the liar thinks he is lying or telling the truth since he lives in illusion in either case.
All autobiography separates a single entity from the universe that bore “him” and sustains “him” and from which he cannot be separated.
We are all the tiniest of grains of sand aswirl in the ocean, “deciding” at one moment to swing a bit to the right and then “deciding” to surge a bit to the left. We are grains of sand swirling as part of an infinite whole and every thought and every action is embedded in the swirling whole and never separate from it. The universe decides everything. And decides nothing.
One is no more free letting a die “decide” among options than he is if he decides himself. All that is happening is that accident is introduced into the flow and thus the normal swirl that our grain of sand usually takes may be forced a bit off course.
Accident is the great creator. Chance is the great creator. Think of a universe without chance, without accident: a universe as steady as the earth moving around the sun, the moon around the earth. But we are lucky enough to live in a universe with avalanches and earthquakes and tornadoes and floods and wild fires and long droughts, all as unpredictable as the weather at two o’clock one month from now.We live in a universe that is filled with chaos, as our scientists began forty years ago to see as a different world from that of Newtonian physics.
And a human being is not like a moon orbiting a planet but like a waterfall: totally random and unpredictable. Predict, if you will, what you yourself will be doing at two o’clock one month from now. I mean predict exactly–where you will be, with whom you will be, what you will be saying and what you will be feeling and thinking. Even were you to try to plan the entire month to make your prediction come true you would fail: chance would upset your applecart.
Human beings are unpredictable. Animals are unpredictable. Most life lives in the world of chaos and chance and not in the world of regularity and predictability. When in a specific garden will the first rose bloom? No one will ever be able to predict it–except within a huge margin of error and even then accident may make the rose never bloom at all, or bloom unpredictably early.
What we fail to appreciate is that this unpredictability, this vulnerability to accident, is the greatest gift God has given life. Which money is more appreciated: the weekly paycheck or a sudden unexpected windfall, no matter how small? Accident is surprise, and a life without surprise is death.
We live in uncertainty and that uncertainty ends only in death. Then and then alone is our being no longer susceptible to accident. Of course, the corpse continues to exist in the world of uncertainty: its rate of decay is unpredictable; exactly when it will be buried or cremated depends on too many variables to predict. But our being has ended and we are free at last from uncertainty.
Glory be to God for Accidents,
For random meetings, weather, profit, loss.
For tripping on the rug, rebalancing,
For spilling coffee, bumping head,
For tripping over logs that let you taste the autumn leaves,
For broken legs and pretty nurses,
For floods that let you see what floats in basements,
For lightning strikes that split the oak to white.
And for the big ones too:
Fires that let you rebuild your home,
Illnesses that let you know you’re loved,
Or getting killed and sleeping deep forever.
A life without accident is a life without life.