I’m just finishing the last book in Robyn Peterman’s Fashionably Dead series. I’ve flown through the books, eschewing my responsibilities in favor of reading compulsively.  My favorite kind of reading, in fact. This series has everything, God, Satan, the Seven Deadly Sins, Mother Nature and the Angels of Death and Light.  Awesome stuff. And I’m learning new curse words along the way, which is just even more goodness. I’m never happier than when I can cuss like a sailor. I love my potty mouth, what can I say?  Anyhoo, one of the interesting but frustrating aspects of this story is the fact that some of the characters seem to know what’s going on but they won’t tell the protagonists. It’s unbelievably annoying. And not just to me, to the protagonists as well. I had a boyfriend like that once, a Special Forces officer who wouldn’t tell me squat about what he did professionally because then he would have to kill me, yada, yada, yada. Pu-lease. But I was quite young and I fell for it and thought he was deeply mysterious. I was wrong. He was deeply shallow and self-centered, actually. I have a nasty habit of imputing more depth and wisdom to the strong silent types than is actually there. I assume still waters run deep when reticence just masks the fact that someone has little to say. My bad. 

I’ve strayed far from my subject, shockingly. Which is the obscurity of destiny, otherwise known as existential uncertainty. By which I mean, we have no freaking idea how things will work out as we go along. Will it be OK in the end?  If it isn’t OK, is it safe to assume it’s not the end?  I read that on a greeting card once and I’ve always liked that idea. Will I get into that college, meet my soul mate, have healthy children, get my dream job, live in my fantasy house and maintain a size four in perpetuity?  Spoiler alert:  I haven’t been a size four for a while, more’s the pity. 

The point is, like for Astrid and Dixie in Ms. Peterman’s entertaining series, I have no idea what’s going on, who I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to do, and how it will all work out in the end. I’m hoping someone has a clue and that maybe someday, in some alternate existence, it will all make sense and I will comprehend the bigger picture, the master plan, the reason everything happens if everything, in fact, happens for a reason. I’m hoping more will be revealed, as the saying goes.

One of the interesting thought exercises inspired by this series is the question of whether we would behave differently if we knew the outcomes of our actions–and the impacts of those of others. Those in the know in the Fashionably Dead books don’t share their knowledge with Astrid or Dixie because they claim it would mess with destiny and free will. So I’m wondering, is this true?  Would knowing how it all turns out change our behavior?  I think that is a Hell to the yeah for sure, don’t you?

One of my not-so-secret secrets is that I’m a big believer in divination and channeling. Those who know me well know that I’ve always been into what is commonly termed the occult, but which is more properly called esoteric teachings and techniques. They mean the same thing, but one sounds a lot better than the other. Kind of like the interjection shit versus shoot. The most compelling reason to seek esoteric knowledge is to be able to garner some insight into the future so we can know what to do and where to go and when to hold on and when to walk away. For example, my husband and I struggled for over three years to get pregnant and have a baby. It was a fairly devastating process, made all the more unbearable because we didn’t know if we would be successful. I remember thinking quite clearly that all the needles and meds and surgeries would be so worth it if it all resulted in a baby. But while we were going through it we didn’t know whether it would work. And the uncertainly was absolutely brutal. 

If we’d known it was going to work, all of it would have been hard, but doable. If we’d known it wouldn’t, we would have stopped and gotten on with our lives. But we didn’t know until we did.  We weren’t sure until more was revealed. Maybe someone or something up above or out there or somewhere knew how the story ended, but we did not. And not knowing is no fun. 

In the end we had beautiful twin boys. And now we’re tortured by the question of how these little hellions will turn out when they grow up. Can we get them to college without law enforcement or early parenthood involved? Will they even go to college?  Will they “launch” successfully, or will they be living in our basement when they are thirty? Will we like their wives?  Or will one of them be a narcissistic sociopath?  One never knows, does one?  Sucks shoot. I mean shit.

Do we have to wait till the show is completely over, aka we’re dead, to know whether everything turned out all right? That is not a wonderful prospect either. When will more be revealed?  And here’s the kicker question:  what if we knew that things didn’t turn out so well?  Would we exit early and spare ourselves months or years of hell?  What if we knew what would happen but had no way to control ourselves so that it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

We probably tell ourselves that if we knew bad things were going to happen, and we had the ability to change our unfortunate fates, we would. But that’s a lie we tell ourselves to make us feel better. The hard fact is that we all know very well that eating poorly or too much will lead to all sorts of health problems. We know that smoking will lead to cancer and other chronic illness. We know that a sedentary lifestyle takes years off our lives. And we don’t do a damn thing about it.

So, when I think about whether knowing the future or even some aspects of it would change my behavior, the answer is, probably not. Sad but true. It’s not like I didn’t know the Special Forces relationship would end poorly for all concerned. I did. I stayed anyway, holding on for dear life. Why?  It’s called the triumph of hope over experience.  We do it all the time. It’s also known as wishful thinking, and it’s closely related to its cousins delusion and denial. In fact, it’s all one big dysfunctional family.

So, it’s not clear to me that Astrid’s and Dixie’s relatives were correct and that obscuring the future or failing to reveal knowledge did anything for our snarky protagonists. But it certainly made for a better story, that’s for sure. Probably in real life too.  But I’m sure more will be revealed on that front as well.

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