What if…   Leave a comment

Is it Divine Intervention? Or is it Fate? Are events, small and large, pre-determined, or do they just happen as they happen?
Are there, truly, “no coincidences” (homage to Signs, one of my all-time favorite movies)?

 Having chronic insomnia, I read a lot. Probably more than 8 hours a day. A person can get a lot of reading and thinking done in the quiet wee hours of the night and early morning. In the reading of fiction, I tend towards historical and well-researched novels. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is one such book.

Set in Hungary and France in the late 1930s amidst the unrest that would become World War II, it is the story of three brothers from a Jewish family whose lives are “ravaged by war”. Well researched, as well as gleaned from the history of her own family, the author chronicles “one family’s struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate it”. Immediately following the epilogue is a poem: Any Case. The poem addresses the question, not only of why and how 6 million Jews were murdered during Hitler’s regime, but why, and perhaps how,  those who survived did survive.

We have all asked those questions, the “what if…”s? What if the sun had been shining that day, resulting in a walking or driving route that allowed for the meeting of “the one”? What if the child who was abducted and murdered had not argued with her friends and gone ahead, alone, on the path home from school? What if the passenger in the vehicle had sat in his usual place? Was it a miracle he wasn’t killed in the accident? You know: the butterfly effect. The “I could’ve …..but, luckily…..now…”. But, who, or what, controls whether or not the butterfly flaps her wings? Is it luck? Fate? Karma? God? Or do things just happen randomly to change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, lives, cultures, civilizations? Are we in control of our own destinies? Will a prayer at a specific moment change not only one person’s life, but the lives of hundreds, thousands, millions? Or is what happens just what happens?

I have often questioned the presence of forces in my life that have led me to where I am today. I experience some very profound regrets, as I am sure many people do. One of the reasons I am blogging is to try to understand and accept what I cannot, in retrospect, change (guilt)—putting it out there—VOICING– to the Universe in a creative attempt (suggested by my therapist) to explain and, hopefully, put an end to recurrent nightmares related to that guilt. I think about those regrets. I am confused by them. If I hadn’t married the person I married in my youth, my children wouldn’t have been the people they are today. Would I have ever met my husband had I not been in an unhappy marriage that would end at the exact time my wonderful mate was ready for a committed relationship? What if I had been happily married, or even divorced sooner? My husband is quite a bit younger than I am; in fact, he could (if I had gotten pregnant at 14) be the age of a son. Yet, we both feel we are fated to be together. That we HAVE been together on previous life-paths. Even our dreams during unhappy moments in our separate lives coordinate (needless to say, when we discovered this, it was chilling). So, the entire time I was miserable, and desperately praying that, somehow, God (my old concept of “God”) would intervene in my unhappy marriage, my future soul mate was growing up. These are just samplings of the guilt I deal with on a day to day basis, guilt which haunts me with regularity in the form of heart-pounding, sleep disturbing nightmares. The guilt that probably contributes to not wanting, somehow, to sleep. Because, it is then that my sub-conscious takes over. I can control my waking mind with logic. I cannot control my sub-conscious.

There are those who assert that, in a dangerous or life-threatening situation, they “felt” something. Some even report “seeing” something otherworldly. Not all of the reporters are believers, not all of them are religious, or even spiritual. But, what they have in common, from that point on, is that their lives changed. And, if their lives have changed, then—because of the butterfly effect—so has the world been changed. But, why them? At that particular time, that particular hour, that particular moment. Yes, it makes for great sci-fi, great fiction. But, it is not fiction. It happens. The difference is, we can’t go back and change anything. That can only be done in fiction. So, what is it? Is it God? Or is it Fate? What if…? With large scale events, or with tiny, seemingly minuscule events, “what if…”.


Any Case is written by 1996 Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Saymborska. (1923-Present), and translated from the Polish by Grazyna Dtabic and Sharon Olds. I will share it with you now:

Any Case
It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer. Farther away.
It happened, but not to you.

You survived because you were first.
You survived because you were last.
Because alone. Because the others.
Because on the left. Because on the right.
Because it was raining. Because it was sunny.
Because a shadow fell.

Luckily there was a forest.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A frame, a turn, an inch, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the water.

Thanks to, thus, in spite of, and yet.
What would have happened if a hand, a leg,
One step, a hair away?

So you are here? Straight from that moment still suspended?
The net’s mesh was tight, but you? Through the mesh?
I can’t stop wondering at it, can’t be silent enough.
How quickly your heart is beating in me.


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