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Back in the day when the internet was not yet a household thing, when the cellphone has yet to become an essential gadget, back when tablets and androids were yet to be invented, I chanced upon one poem which, for some strange reason, got stuck in my noggin. It went like this:

Two shall be born, the whole wide world apart,
And speak in different tongues and have no thought
Each of the other’s being, and no heed.
And these, o’er unknown seas, to unknown lands
Shall cross, escaping wreck, defying death;
And all unconsciously shape every act
And bend each wandering step to this one end –
That, one day, out of darkness they shall meet
And read life’s meaning in each other’s eyes.

Yep, I memorized that entire thing without even knowing the title or who even penned it. It didn’t matter to me back then; for some peculiar twist of fate the words just got stuck there in my brain, with very little effort, mind. I didn’t even read it in a book, no. I just saw it in some board or other. You know, one of those inspirational things you see in some guidance counsellor’s office (don’t ask me the reason for my GC session. That’s another entry).

Flashforward to twenty years, I found myself recalling the words. Surprise, surprise, I still remember everything, EVERYTHING. I guess I’m just good at memorizing stuff. But I digress. So there I was, reciting the entire thing from memory, and then it hit me. I can actually Google the text and find out who wrote the darn thing.

And so I did.

And here’s the entire darn thing:

FATE

-by Susan Marr Spalding [1841-1908]

Two shall be born, the whole wide world apart,
And speak in different tongues and have no thought
Each of the other’s being, and no heed.
And these, o’er unknown seas, to unknown lands
Shall cross, escaping wreck, defying death;
And all unconsciously shape every act
And bend each wandering step to this one end –
That, one day, out of darkness they shall meet
And read life’s meaning in each other’s eyes.

And two shall walk some narrow way of life
So nearly side by side that, should one turn
Ever so little space to left or right,
They needs must stand acknowledged, face to face.
And, yet, with wistful eyes that never meet
And groping hands that never clasp and lips
Calling in vain to ears that never hear,
They seek each other all their weary days
And die unsatisfied – and this is Fate!

Seriously? The title of that poem is the ‘F’ word???

Seriously, there’s a second half to it?

Seriously, Frankie, do you still need to memorize the entire darn thing?

You know what? For the past twenty odd years, that first part of the poem was sort of like my compass, your know, my North Star when it comes to that which I know very little about.  I’ve always thought of it as inspirational. Imagine, something significant can happen courtesy of the universe, courtesy of Fate herself! Nevermind your good intentions. Nevermind all your best-laid plans. Damn all your best-laid plans. When Fate grabs the steering wheel, you can’t do anything but you try to enjoy the ride nonetheless. Who knows where she might take you, right?

I’ve always used that 1st half of the text every time I discuss Plato and love in my literature classes. Recall what he wrote in one of his dialogues, the Symposium, specifically the part of Aristophanes that talks about how Zeus divided the third race of men, the most powerful of all, into two. What used to have four arms and four legs and two faces were now less than what they used to be. They were halved:

After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they began to die from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart.

I’ve always thought of the poem that got stuck in my head as a perfect complement to the Plato text. This whole sense of fate, of destiny was something that always intrigued me (hey, this blog isn’t journey of the fates for nothing!). Then again, it was just that. An intriguing concept. It never went yonder past the river of my thoughts and imaginings.

And so now I have the complete text. And as I read the second half, it hit me. The poem, this freaking poem is not, was never my compass. It’s the story of my life!

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Wistful eyes that never meet? Groping hands that never clasp? Lips calling in vain to ears that never hear? 

Yep. Every word is true. Down to the very last:

They seek each other all their weary days
And die unsatisfied – and this is Fate!

To tell you the truth, I’m weary. I’m living out my weary days, yes. Funny how what you’ve always thought of as your North Star was never that. It was the very boat you were traveling in.

It is, indeed, my fate.

You know what? I’ve always thought of my whole situation as something that happened as a result of the choices I’ve made. There’s something empowering in that. Now I realize I was only fooling myself. Nothing, nobody can outrun Fate. With apologies to Woody Allen, let me revise his famous line and say, if you want to make Fate laugh, tell her your plans.

I guess this is where I take my leave. Fate commands it.

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