Fate and Freewill

Lindsey at A Design so Vast ended an excellent and provocative post on finding our paths and letting go of order with a quote by E.L. Doctorow, which is where I wanted to start today:

“You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Lindsey concludes, “Maybe now my job is to stop squinting past the headlights. It’s only causing me panic that I can’t see, hurting my eyes, and taking my attention away from what is right in front of me.”

Her post is really worth reading, as are the comments that respond.  I wanted to take it up, in a brief manner, to add my two cents, but also to affirm that even though I am older, and male, I completely resonate to her theme as well.

Many doors seemed closed to me regarding the things I consciously wanted to do (i.e. make movies), and I consciously thought that I switched gears to become a psychologist because I didn’t want to be a temp secretary when I was fifty, because I didn’t feel confident that I could make an living and provide for kids in an uncertain business and also, because it seemed to turn out that I was much more of a natural at being a therapist than a movie guy.

The world seemed to affirm my psychology path (not to say that it wasn’t hard, taking on even more loans after my arts education and working as a sort of “psych slave” in the trenches of non-profit mental health) and all the “signs” seemed to point that way (finding jobs, office space, clients, etc.).

Just as wherever we go, there we are, I believe that whoever we are, we are that person no matter what we “do” as a career.  I feel that I have continued to develop my artist’s soul as a psychologist… that in a strange sense a therapy session is like performance art—raw, real, authentic and leaving no tangible trace, no “product.”

One of Lindsey’s comments by Tricia referenced Brando in On The Waterfront… “I could have been a contender” as an icon of the road not taken, or blocked.

In strange synchronicity this brought to mind one of my greatest film teachers, who struggled to be taken seriously back in that era as a filmmaker, a cantankerous, brilliant and passionate woman who had an affair with Brando on the very set of On The Waterfront.  She was a great inspiration to me… and then, years later, when Marlon Brando died, my Beverly Hills office phone rang repeatedly with wrong numbers… they were the long lost friends of Marlon Brando calling what turned out to be his old private phone number.

In some strange way that made me think of Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. Maybe in some lives we become the river ferry crosser, in some the movie star, in some the beggar, etc. etc.  But maybe in the end we truly are everyone and everything… it’s just our limited view of time that makes it seem more finite and more sequential when it’s really so vast and omnipresent.

My take on fate and freewill, at least for today, is that on our car journey of life fate is everything we see in the rear-view mirror and free will is what we squint at past our headlights… until the sun rises, illuminating the great ancient sea that is now a desert, beautiful and full of both life and peril, and through which we cross on our journey to freedom.

Namaste, Bruce

6 Responses to “Fate and Freewill”

  1. Lindsey Says:

    Bruce, thank you for so beautifully and provocatively musing on the stuff that is on my mind as well. As usual you trigger in me more and deeper questions, as well as a sigh of delight that our paths have crossed in this weird ether of words.
    It is so hard to let go of what might have been, but I truly believe that that is what is holding me back, in many ways, from really loving what IS.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Yes, and as you mention the opposites in your original post, as both driven and driver we inhabit that space between fate and freewill, this charged, troubling and magic here and now. To me it’s in the mutual recognition (or re-thinking) of our collective and interconnected situations that we come most fully to life.

  2. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Wonderful. All I can say.

  3. privilegeofparenting Says:


  4. Katrina Kenison Says:

    Bruce, I’ve just sent this post to my son Jack, who has always dreamt of being a film director–or a psychologist. (Or a math teacher.) Perhaps he’s too young to really get your point right now, for our lives are shaped by a long, slow accretion of details, every choice and action building in some way on what’s come before. But if there’s anything I want him to know, it’s that what he does to earn a living is a lot less important than who he is as a person. Whether he directs movies seen by millions or attends to the soul of one person in a room, what matters is what kind of care and love and generosity of spirit he brings to the task. Thanks for writing this thoughtful response to Lindsey. So glad to now have a man’s reflections amongst the chorus of wonderful women’s voices I listen to each day.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Thanks for sharing this with me Katrina… I realize how hard it is to transmit the true and loving essence of this sentiment to our children, individually and collectively—as they naturally see the world as we once did and fear being left out, left behind, making the wrong choices or chickening out of the big dreams. It’s not that we’re beyond all that, but we do tend to have more perspective. In my view film and psychology are both about character, so they relate and inform each other (and math relates to spatial reasoning, which connects with the visual, musical and creative aspects in filmmaking). He sounds like a kid after my own heart. It really is nice to connect as grown-ups in our long-accrued perspectives—so thanks for being in virtual communication with me.

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