Saturday, October 27, 2007

Not knowing yet deciding

“…When things come to you easily, when things click effortlessly into place, it is so tempting to use the four-letter F-word. Fate. Which to Millat is a quantity very much like TV: an unstoppable narrative, written, produced and directed by somebody else.

Of course, now that he’s here, now that he’s stoned and scared, and it doesn’t feel so easy, and the right-hand side of his jacket feels like somebody put a fucking cartoon anvil in there – now he sees the great difference between TV and life, and it kicks him right in the groin. Consequences. But even to think this is to look to the movies for reference (because he’s not like Samad or Mangal Pande, he didn’t get a war, he never saw action, he hasn’t got any analogies or anectodes), is to remember Pacino in the first Godfather, huddled in the restaurant toilet (as Pande was huddled in the barracks room), considering for a moment what it means to burst out of men’s room and blast the hell out of the two guys at the checkered table. And Millat remembers. He remembers rewinding and freeze-framing and slow-playing the scene countless times over the years. He remembers that no matter how long you pause the split-second of Pacino reflecting, no matter how often you replay the doubt that seems to cross his face, he never does anything else but what he was always going to do.” (White Teeth, 526, 527)

“If neither imperative can be overridden, then choose one, and as you say, get on with it. Man makes himself, after all. And he is responsible for what he makes.”

“I may yet redeem myself in your eyes… or you may be mistaken – your decision may come back to you as Oedipus’s returned to him, horrible and mutilated! You cannot say for sure!”

“No… no… we are not fortune-tellers. I could never have predicted my life would end up in the hands of a child… Corinthians I, chapter thirteen, verse eight: Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. But when will it come? For myself, I became tired of waiting. It is such a terrible thing, to know only in part. …

If only we were brave enough to make the decisions that must be made…between those worth saving and the rest… Is it a crime to want –“

“Imagine, if you can, events in the world happening repeatedly, endlessly, in the way they always have…

imagine this war over and over a million times…

It is not a serious proposition. It is a test. Only those who are sufficiently strong and well disposed to life to affirm it – even if it will just keep on repeating – have what it takes to endure the worst blackness. I could see the things I have done repeated infinitely.”(538, 539.)

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