Margaret Visser borrows the ancient metaphor of the line--not a line of poetry, but a physical, figurative line drawn on a piece of paper--to frame her discussion of fatalism. The line spatializes time, encourages us to see events as inevitable and fated, and in doing so, expresses time in terms of space. In J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
saga, a line is turned upon itself to make a ring which curses whoever owns it. The One Ring is associated with fate as an imprisonment: chains that can only be broken by undertaking a perilous journey to destroy it, thereby releasing the world from the power of the Ring of Doom. Visser wishes to likewise warn us and help us identify how a similar fatalism expresses itself in our daily lives, threatening our ability to choose by snaring us in dangerous metaphors such as ''Image is everything'' and luring us with the notion that a person's worth is only measurable by what he or she is in the eyes of other people. By opposing the fatalistic Greek system of honor and shame with the Christian system of guilt and forgiveness, Visser exalts the virtues of humility, desire, and will as the means by which we can regain hope over hopelessness in a world that seems to have gotten away from us--a world to which, too often, we submit ourselves in the hope that nature will somehow fix and right itself without any effort on our part.
An Eighth Day View:
Many people today are afflicted with a sense that they cannot change things for the better. They feel helpless, constrained, caught, in a word, fatalistic. Beyond Fate examines why. In her characteristically lively prose, Margaret Visser investigates what fate means to us, and where the propensity to believe in it and accept it comes from. She takes an ancient metaphor where time is "seen" and spoken of as though it were space and examines how this way of picturing reality can be a useful tool to think with - or, on the other hand, how it may lead people into disastrous misunderstandings. By observing how fatalism expresses itself in one's daily life, in everything from table manners to shopping to sport, the book proposes ways to limit its influence. Beyond Fate provides a timely and provocative perspective on modern life, both personal and social.