-What do you mean by “there are things we cannot escape”? – I asked Elizabeth, my Tarot teacher, a crazy, fabulous English woman who had fallen in love with Egypt – and with a particular Egyptian taxi driver from Luxor.
I was living, and performing, in Cairo by then, materializing a so called impossible dream: to become a successful Oriental Dancer in the Mecca of that ancient, sacred and damned, art form.
– Certain things are marked in our paths, independently of our desire and actions. We can try to outsmart destiny but it will find us. – She continued, unaware of my irritation.
I was – still am – someone who believes in will power and constructive action. If I want something, I go for it instead of waiting for destiny to deliver the goodies at my doorstep.
A predestined path I cannot escape? Stuff that´s meant to happen, independently of the direction I choose?
As I arrived to Egypt – leap of faith; choice; destiny? -, I was convinced my life was my exclusive creation. I, and no other entity, held the pen which wrote my story. I thought luck, or flowing with the plans life had for me, were excuses from weak, lazy people.
–I make my destiny! – I´d yell, blind.
Egypt was fast to prove me wrong.
Although my will power and my conviction in the responsibility quote I have over my life never faded, I´ve watched events unfold and realized, not without shock, I was only a co-creator. Not The Creator – a co-creator.
I didn´t hold all the keys in my hands; a part of my destiny was built by my inner world, words and actions. Another part was out of my hands.
Surrendering to God, or whatever you may call The invisible Energy that rules the big picture, was and still is a work in progress.
Egyptians know a thing or two about surrendering to a higher power. If something pleasant happens, they´ll praise God for it; if disaster strikes, they feel thankful as well, believing it´s for the greater good.
– We didn´t succeed- God knows best. – They´d say, in a state of (annoying) contentment. – Inshah Allah (God willing), we´ll meet tomorrow. – They´d add, putting my nerves to the test.
I got it. Eventually. I started seeing destiny as a partnership instead of a one woman show. Which brings me to luck, a volatile partner.
If you want to see the dark side of me, tell me how lucky you think I am. Many people do.
If there are creatures for whom life is nothing but a parade of effortless blessings and – apparently – convenient “lucky strikes”, I´m not one of them. I´ve co-created, and keep co-creating, my reality. I chase luck and knock on its door. Sometimes, it opens; sometimes, it doesn´t. I keep knocking. Results are overrated – it´s the doing, the trial, the journey that counts. At least, I like to think so.
-You´re lucky you built a successful career in Egypt when nobody believed you…
-You´re lucky you get to travel the whole world doing what you love.
-You´re lucky you´re healthy, strong, inspired, creative.
-You´re lucky that…
I´ve worked myself to oblivion in order to accomplish those things. Was luck – or destiny – involved? I believe so. But half of the job, the one which belongs to me, didn´t fall from the sky. Nobody delivered me the keys – I had to dig, fail and succeed, and make the best of them.
Daring to co-create our destiny can bring success and happiness – it can also bring failure and disappointment. You got to leave your ego behind and go for it. If luck, or whatever you may call it, collaborates, things move forward. If not, YOU move forward.
There´s a private agenda – the one we write for ourselves – and there´s a divine agenda – the one which is written before we were born. Living may be a dance, both determined and flexible, between the private and the divine agenda. Those plans may, or may not, agree with each other. It´s not a big deal. Life is full of amazing experiences at our disposal and what we decide to call failure, or unlucky moment, can be a trigger for future glory.
What is luck, anyway?
Has somebody, aside from the specialists who write dictionaries, tried to define it? Or even thought about it?
Here´s the first thing Egypt taught me: luck is a relative concept. Often a trap. What I consider a lucky strike can turn into a nightmare. And vice-versa. Downfalls, shocks and disappointments can give birth to amazing, expansive experiences and achievements.
Egypt taught me something else: life is what we make of it. I´ve seen people who had a miserable life – by my standards – leading a peaceful, happy existence.
-How do they do it? Why are they so happy when they have every reason to feel unhappy?
They´re satisfied – in peace – with what life provides. If it´s lemons, they make a mean lemonade. Coming from a Western background – where ambition, drive and the wilingness to transform, and conquer, reality rules – this is a hard concept to grasp.
Egypt taught me even more: no matter how bright, hard working, honest, ready to run the marathon, talented and kind hearted we may be, that, in itself, doesn´t assure success, happiness or any other kind of abundance. Random events, pleasant and unpleasant, fall on everybody´s lap. It´s the Wheel of Fortune, Major Arcana Number 10 of the Tarot. Ruled by Jupiter, the Lord of Abundance, Lucky strikes and Expansion.
Here´s how I came to see it, according to my experience:
There´s destiny – the part of the map already designed; the path we can´t escape.
Then there´s will power and conscious creation – our thoughts, words and actions; the stuff we work for, decide and build with our hands.
And, last but not the least, there´s randomness: alignment of stars; circumstances that seem to come out of nowhere. What we decide to call blessings, or disasters, happen to people independently of their qualities, intentions and actions.
A burglar wins the lottery; a hero who saves lives is killed by a lightning bolt; a kind, honest, person is hurt while a jerk – pardon my French – is promoted to Mayor of the city and loved by family and friends. As children, we´re taught the good ones are victorious, in the end of the story. The evil witch dies and the good prince wins the heart of the princess. Real life stories don´t always end like this.
My father, a 66 year old retired engineer who was ready to embrace old age, was talent spotted at the beach.
The owner of a models/publicity agency happened to be at the coffeeshop he went to buy an ice cream, by chance. She saw him, approached him and asked if he was interested in becoming a model/publicity actor.
He was just buying ice cream. He didn´t work for this opportunity. In fact, he hadn´t even dreamt about it.
In the space of two weeks, he started shooting his first commercial and he´s now preparing to shoot his second. Although I´m excited for my dad, and proud of his new professional adventure, I´m also startled by the arbitrary order of things.
I´ve quit trying to understand. I´m no Prometheus, eager to steal the Fire from the Gods and burning, as a punishment, for such audacity.
Life is supposed to be experienced, not (fully) understood.
Leave the Fire to the Fire Keepers. I´m happy to dance around it and enjoy its warmth.
Random, or not, life is meant to be grabbed by the collarbone; lucky, or unlucky (relative concept, remember?), experiences are what we make of them. The ability to turn rocks into diamonds is in everybody´s hands. We may not all be talented musicians, or cooks or writers or scientists, but we´re all alchemists in our hearts.
Of course. Maybe. Who knows? Who holds the scepter of Universal Truth?
I can keep doing my part: kicking the ball when it´s on my side of the field. Moving, the best I can, towards my dreams and leaving the rest to Mystery.
Nothing assures a pleasant end to this adventure but I´ll make sure it´s an Adventure. Up or down; Winter or Summer; come rain or come shine; lucky strike or lesson learnt – I´ll rock it.
Dancing with Mystery sounds a lot more fun than burning in Prometheus´fire. I don´t want, or need, to know everything. I´m aLIVE. That´s how lucky I am.