Last Friday I had lunch with a very special friend. An octagenarian, he is famous all over the world and has written songs that you've sung many times. When I met him and his lovely wife a decade ago, I was a green shoot in the money management world, with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and the confidence that I was equal to anyone. When I first went to his home, it was to help him on his computer. Next to it sat a Grammy; I had never seen one in person before. It startled me, and was like seeing a unicorn in that it was the tangible presence of something that had, until then, been mere legend.
That feeling was a prelude of the years ahead, when legends would begin to walk through my life, or stay, and turn to me for advice on what to do with the fruits of a lifetime of work. This is the burden and joy of my life; that this crow helps to carry the collected accomplishments of many people. I do not often share in the direct blessings of great wealth, but I am adept at shouldering its responsibility.
But this lunch, in the dining room of a country club (the clink of ice cubes floating in crystal glasses, the soft murmur of carefully-restrained conversation, the hard heft of a silver fork), this conversation was to be different.
This time I asked for advice. I asked for the advice of a writer, a wizard of words who has spent six decades writing. I asked him to tell me his story. I asked him about destiny.
I've been thinking a lot lately about destiny.
"Do you think," I said, as my fried ravioli were set down in front of me, "that there are things in life that are somehow meant to be? That there are pieces of our destiny that are unavoidable."
This dear man's eyes twinkled. It was the kind of question that can only be asked by the young to the old. It was the kind of question that only matters to the young, and can only be answered by the old.
"I think that may be true," he said. He then shared his story, his history, and how he came to be a writer. Drafted into World War II, he auditioned to be a writer for the shows that were put on for troops. He got the assignment, was stationed with some of the best artists of his time (in the military!) and began his journey down a path that would ultimately lead him to his own destiny.
"Did you know that I'm a writer?" I asked.
His eyes sparkled again, "No," he said.
"I stopped a while ago because it scared me, but I know that it's only a matter of time before it finds me. There are days when I can feel the need to write."
"It will find you," he said. "You're a writer."
Today, dear Reader, is one of those days. A day when the stories wake me like impatient children, prodding and nudging. This morning, I awoke with a set of stories fully formed in my mind, complete with questions that could only--that must--be answered by writing them. I awoke with the sense of being choked from the inside, as if I was trying--but unable--to cough or wretch or gag. My eyes watered; I want only to sleep. Let me sleep.
So these are the questions: What if you had made different choices? What parts of you would be the same, and which would be different? How? Would you be happier? Would you be less happy? If our lives are slab of marble (textured and solid!), where are the stress lines of destiny--where is it possible to break away, if only for a while? What parts of a person are immutable? What about the destinies of others; they must surely be affected by our own, individual destinies? And how do you recognize your destiny when you have found it? By what sign is it known?
And if, by luck or work or tragedy, you have found your destiny, then what power do you have to step away from it, to choose another path? Is it even possible? Would you want to?
Dear Reader, what choices have you made that have led you to the life you live, to reading this blog right now, to doing whatever it is you will do next? Where does the backdrop of your life blend with you, and what parts of you are just backdrop?