O Fortuna!


Always siding with the underdog as a matter of principle, I strongly identified with Salieri in Amadeus. Here was a decent, hard-working man, not born into privilege, who through hard work and dedication had attained the post of court composer to the Habsburg Emperor.

He had his faults as do we all, and I’m sure every one of us has at some time in our lives experienced the situation of seeing someone effortlessly overtake us either in professional or private life and enjoy the fruits that we had striven for with much labour and integrity but without success. 

Schaffer’s play may have taken liberties with the truth, but it does highlight the sense of unfairness that many of us must live with. We work hard and do our best and yet a superhuman force seems to strike us down and slap us in the face when the goal is within reach, as often as not in the form of a usurper who seems naturally talented or has all the luck.

I’ve seen luck at work when playing backgammon, and it seems like a real supernatural entity with a definite character, intimately involved in the game. My throws are uniformly perfect or uniformly rubbish, and often the malevolent spirit plays me along only to swat me like a mosquito and snigger at my presumption that I control my own destiny.

“And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.”

We’re strapped to the Wheel of Fortune and simply have to revolve with it, trusting that better times will come along if we remain true to ourselves and never give up hope, regardless of our merits and efforts. But that’s by no means guaranteed.

“It will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
Samuel Beckett

Apropos of nothing, and following a recent and still very painful personal loss, wouldn’t it be great if we brought up children from an early age to have a completely different and more positive relation with death? Instead of saying ‘so-and-so has died’, say that they have ‘gone into the light’, the implication being that death is not something to be afraid of but rather something to look forward to, a better place where we will all be reunited.

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