Everything that happens is a coincidence and all the purveyors of cause and logical sequence are illusion-mongers. The event is primary; the sooner we get hold of this wisdom the richer will be the succession of instants that makes up our lives.
Nothing that happens is probable. Say that analysis shows you have 1 chance of running into your mother downtown and 999 chances of running into “nobody.” Yet each of those 999 chances is distinct. In one case my (your) attention is caught by an Indian craft shop, which I enter, seeing a boy in a purple suit smoking a cigar. In another I get mental pictures of going swimming last year in North Carolina. The point is, meeting my mother downtown is — objectively — no more startling than meeting no one I know and thinking about swimming in North Carolina; they are equally improbable. Yet it is only in the mother-meeting — no more special than the others, no less unspecial — that our minds go to town and start to question the supposed plodding dullness of everyday life.
Any individual thing is “unlikely.” It is “unlikely” that I have grown up to be the way I am. It is “unlikely” that your favorite color is blue — whether it is or not. It is unlikely that you married that particular woman or man. Isn’t it a “coincidence” that the twoof you met? — that your parents were neighbors, that you went to the same school, dance, etc.? Examine any party or large dinner in detail, trace the train of circumstance that brought each person to that particular place with these others, would not the bringing together of persons of such separated backgrounds, histories, etc. seem far-fetched, implausible, contrived — were it not for your certainty that it was real and true and “actually happening”?
Why trifle with such pettiness, like sorting lengths of hay with a needle — saying, “This is a coincidence, this is not,” and so forth? Isn’t it foolishness? There have got to be more important things to do.
What if I told you that our character Bill was in Mexico City because his uncle’s X took a G in FR because, etc., etc., would that make you less uneasy? Wouldn’t that be, in effect, manipulating and deceiving you? It is to those readers of an early draft who think otherwise —who missed or rejected my conventional hints of “reasons” or circumstances that might bring a character here or there, who spurned my hints why it might be all right if he should appear in such-and-such place even though we’ve never seen him outside the city of N — that I am grateful for the 0pportunity to make this little speech. Left to myself I’d prefer to let the whole matter sit undiscussed and unexamined.
But truly now, neither persons nor characters come to be in the same place for a good reason. Sometimes too clearly the hand of Providence is seen, our minds have difficulty assigning the mystification of mechanical “cause,” too heavily it is felt — but Providence is only acounter-mystification that shocks us into knowledge of our sight, properly understood it is no more than unadorned truth, that is, reality, or a collection of experienced moments, irreducible, without obvious or finite intelligibility; a crack between contradictory world-views.
Aristotle was a fool. Yet I admire the man. It could be said he succeeded in dragging two thousand years of Western civilization’s educated minds in the darkness of shadows thrown up by his notions of what happens in literature.
But 2000 years is long enough. It is time for the veils to be lifted and the Emperor’s clothes to be decried (the old ones are fundamentally no different from the new): “Plausibility is a lie.”
Pay attention and you will see that nothing happens twice. An “ordinary” or “probable” day is no more probable or repeatable than an event recognized as bizarre. There is a call for Mr. Rankin, a wrong number, at 10.26. The breeze shakes the leaves (or at least they move) in a “pattern” different from the one of five minutes ago, never to be repeated, more obviously different from a year ago or a year hence. True, if you abstract the “general outlines” of the day, “Breakfast, worked, lunch, worked till late afternoon,” you might be lucky enough to get an exact copy (i.e., of the abstract) tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. Such abstracting is sometimes necessary and often useful. But in doing it we blind ourselves to what actually occurs, which is unique and new, and push out the wonder that the experiencing might otherwise leave us open to.
Make up your mind to free yourself from these brain-shackles. Will you submit and stand idly by and pass your whole brief lifetime in the benightedness of if A then B and without U there can be no W? Will you choose to tie your happiness to the concatenation of circumstance, will you remain slave to the pushy ignorance of hacks who went before, slave to falseness and the mind’s appetite for lulling itself to stupor, will you trade the excitement of opening out on a fresh moment with each recession of your lids for the phony security that breaks down at every twist in the road, like a war cannon two hundred years out of date in a thaw, mired in contradiction, unable to function in the least “exceptional circumstance”? As Lenin said, without these so-called exceptional circumstances there would have been no revolution.
I say, if a character is in Mexico City damn it he’s there. Whether or not he is there through the instrumentality of certain forces I leave it forthe good-hearted reader to wrestle with and, with his or her ever-returning energy and good sense, to sort out. I furnish so much help only and no more. To give constant reassurance is beyond the scope of my interest — nor, I promise you, would it be best for you or our relationship. Sometime or other, at the crucial instant, even if it lasts only as long as a lightning flash, there is not going to be any help and the reader has to see.
Let’s say you’re still not satisfied. Illogically or whatever, come hell or high water you still want the convention maintained, the myth and mystification, you know what you’re doing and choose it. Then I say unto you, “Come on, do me a favor.” Relax. Let it happen. Come off it. Why torture yourself with such small potatoes? Let in a little life.
© Jerry Kurtz 1975