Yesterday I got some tentative good news regarding an apartment. I won’t divulge due to my (admittedly) superstitious belief that talking about it will jinx it, but I’ll keep you all abreast…
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“What Will Be, Will be… ”
“This is moral perfection: to live each day as though it were the last; to be tranquil, sincere, yet not indifferent to one’s fate.”
— Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180), Meditations
The average American does all he can to impose direction and control over his life. I have a much older friend who is no closer to adopting this attitude than were our ancestors in Puerto Rico a hundred or two hundred years ago. If there is any aspect of the modern Latino/a psyche that’s pathologized by whites, it’s that acceptance of fatalism best expressed in the phrase, que sera, sera (what will be, will be).
At first glance, my friend’s acceptance of fate (“… it is written”) may appear perverse, considering the dazzling array of tools we Westerners have in our arsenal against the insecurities of life, but spend some time with my friend and you will quickly find yourself questioning the wisdom (perhaps the sincerity?) of Western attitudes.
When he has paid up his taxes, my friends observes, his life insurance, trained in the latest marketable skills, saved for his kids’ education, paid alimony, bought the house and car conforming to the unwritten rules of his tribe and which allows him a certain status, given up alcohol abuse, nicotine, extra-marital sex and recreational drugs, spent his two-week vacation (or weekends) on some adventurous (but safe!) holiday, learned how to be super-careful as to what he says to or does with members of the opposite sex, the average “Americano” (as my friend calls us) may – and often does – wonder where his life went. Well, he doesn’t say it all in one sentence like that, but that’s the core of his message, I guarantee you.
He, my friend, continues: The average Americano, invariably feels cheated when he finally discovers that all the worrying and all the insurance payments have failed to protect him from fire, burglary, any number of natural disasters, The Sack, terrorist activity, or his wife’s sudden and seemingly impulsive decision to desert with the kids, the car, and all the spare cash in the joint bank account.
And if you were to tell my friend that in a kingdom without safety nets, he would be flattened by accident or illness, whereas an Americano might have bought himself some measure of protection, you would be correct. However, in-between those transitory bumps and grinds of life (which are, as the song implies, inevitable), my friend lives a life of sublime insouciance, as I like to call it. The standard Americano observation would be that he is an old man living in a fool’s paradise. “Perhaps,” my friend admits with a wink and a nod — but might not he reply that the Americano has built himself a fool’s hell?
He’s some character, my friend…