Sunday, October 8, 2023

Serendipity and the Respectables


Serendipity and the Respectables

Peter Schultz


            The respectables tend to believe in a divinely decreed destiny because that gives meaning, in the form of divine approval, to their respectability. Hence, the respectables are often snobbish.


            Inculcating a belief in divinely decreed destinies is socially and politically useful insofar as such a belief facilitates social and political success or greatness. It justifies the cruelty that is required to achieve greatness, to achieve and demonstrate superiority or dominance, another attribute of respectability. It is through rule, through dominance, that superiority, greatness, or virtue is achieved and demonstrated. It is most useful if such dominance is thought to be divinely decreed; it is useful to think that God blessed or blesses America. America’s dominance is best mythologized as a divinely decreed destiny.


            But wait. Fate or destiny: Is it divinely decreed or is it serendipitous? Are events decreed or should we say of them, “so it goes?” In Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut introduces Billy Pilgrim, who is trying to understand the Dresden firebombing, to aliens who accept events as they unfold, don’t try to control or change them, because that is “the way the moment was constructed.” So, perhaps, however strange it might seem, fate or destiny is not divinely decreed; it is serendipitous. “So it goes.”

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