Accidents and Happenstance

I am the ordinary son of an ordinary man. Which is pretty self-evident, I know. But, as I started to unearth that fact, it became clear to me that everything that had happened in my father’s life and in my life was accidental. We live our lives this way: viewing things that came about through accident and happenstance as the sole possible reality.

To put it another way, imagine raindrops falling on a broad stretch of land. Each one of us is a nameless raindrop among countless drops. A discrete, individual drop, for sure, but one that’s entirely replaceable. Still, that solitary raindrop has its own emotions, its own history, its own duty to carry on that history. Even if it loses its individual integrity and is absorbed into a collective something. Or maybe precisely because it’s absorbed into a larger, collective entity.

Occasionally, my mind takes me back to that looming pine tree in the garden of our house in Shukugawa. To thoughts of that little kitten, still clinging to a branch, its body turning to bleached bones. And I think of death, and how very difficult it is to climb straight down to the ground, so far below you that it makes your head spin. 

(Haruki Murakami. Translated, from the Japanese, by Philip Gabriel. October 2019)



Today my life is entirely up in the air, far up that tree above the ground, the ground I used to know as my reality. I have some points of contact, a general destination, an aim and an ambition. Much ahead is a leap of faith—not faith in a god that might guide a safe landing, but faith in myself to navigate a way forward, to find a new reality.

It seems foolish to spend much time worrying about any idea of reality. It’s just what’s happening now. Accidents and happenstance. It’s happenstance that my wife decided to end our marriage. Yet happenstance has consequences, too, which are real and chart a new basis of reality. The old reality no longer exists or has any meaning. “I shall not regret the past.”

I don’t have to like it, only accept it. I don’t have to like her anymore, only accept her as she is. Her decision has defined a new reality, for both of us. I don’t have to forgive her because forgiveness isn’t part of the equation. Nor do I have to condemn her because condemnation implies a moral high ground that I don’t, and can’t, occupy.

It’s all just happenstance, the way the world turns when you can’t ever see it turning. The points on the horizon looked the same to me. I never saw them growing fainter, more distant. Someone else was turning the wheels. Someone else was looking at a different horizon.

The idea of home is just an idea. Or no home. The reality of “home” exists in my head not in any physical building or place. It’s an idea I long for. I haven’t had a home in a long time, not even when married. Yes I had a place where I lived but never a home.

I was entirely replaceable; and that was only an accident and happenstance: absorbed into the collective reality of the dispossessed.

It’s time to climb down that tree onto firm ground, and not stay aloft, clinging to my branch, turning into little but bleached bones.


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