Phil’s voice calls Femina from her thoughts: “Now, if we don’t believe in fate and having no proof or any signs that could give us an understanding why indeed an illness occurs then only one explanation appears reasonable: It is by chance that illness arises, chance that it happens to one plant and not the other, chance that it occurs at this time but not that one. Even if we know the obvious causes, not everyone for instance gets the cold, despite an epidemic outbreak. How come, one gets it and the other does not?!” He halts for a moment, but continues not waiting for a comment: “Of course to hypothesize that illness occurs randomly has its problems. For one, it may lead to either carelessness or worse, resignation, as far as human behavior is concerned. Though everybody accept the possibility and probability of illness occurring, nobody actually believes that it may happen to them. Only others get sick, isn’t it and should it happen to oneself than it is rather an unpleasant surprise, if not shock. On the other hand we have fate. It makes it easier for the sufferer to accept his illness giving meaning to it and even allowing him an excuse regarding his own responsibilities.”
So far Phil’s colleague had not said anything but now he interrupts him: “You are renouncing God with such statements! You make life to a dice’s game! Bad luck for one, luck for the other, randomly without any rules or control!” He turns to her in the hope to find an accomplice asking her: “Do you believe it is chance?”
“Yes,” she says, “though not everything is, despite appearing to be accidental. But generally, my answer is yes. I personally don’t believe in predetermination or a deity that plays me like a puppet. But that does not imply that I have to be or that I am godless.” She could not restrain herself to take a stance against his hasty conclusions.
He looks at her thoughtfully. His face now being shown in a close-up appears as if he was looking straight at her, Femina, in the room. He says slowly, emphasizing his words: “How many terminally ill do you know, and how many of them believe in having an illness due to chance? Or do they rather believe in fate as reason?”
The question is so immediately directed at her that Femina on her wooden bench feels as if a whip had struck her. Hot and cold showers run over her back and in her ears there is the sound of boiling water. Was she before frozen solid in ice, now the fire is keen to grab and devour her. The storm in her head does not help. He races through her brain, and logic and thoughts and emotions dance wildly in his trail with so much power that her body begins to sweat. A remnant of reason manages to throw her a life-line before fire can take control. She hears shouting: “Breathe! Breathe! Blow the fire away! Remember your breath! There is no point in panic!” So she concentrates on her breath, on every breath she takes. She listens to the noises it makes as she inhales deeply, in through her nose and out through her mouth, long and emphatically. She must force herself to breathe out as long as she can, pause as long as she can, waiting until she is compelled to take the next breath in. Slowly but surely success ensues. The breathing loses its forcefulness and frequency, with the pauses between getting longer. The storms calm down, the fire is ebbing away, silence unfolds and her breath makes no noise any more.
Now she can ask herself, ‘why all the panic’, what is she afraid of?’ It is only death at the end. Obviously!!!!! She d o e s n o t want to die! And sure not by her own hand. Though everyone knows that one day life will end, to end it voluntarily is a very different agenda. She needs, no she wants to make her decision as rational as possible; it must not be a rash one. After all, one cannot undo the deed. She always found it rather sad to hear about people taking their lives in the state of despair. On the other hand, she believes that the responsibility over one’s own life lies solely with every individual, fully and unconditional, at least as long as they have the capacity to make decisions. She knows but only of few cases where suicide was an act of clear thought, but of many, where emotional turmoil and situational crisis lead to the conclusion that it was the only escape. She sure does not want to do just the same.
So! What is her view on chance and fate now, being an incurable ill herself? She did ask the question, why me, why at all? Was it life testing her, was it something predetermined, like a neat package laid into her cradle to be opened later on? Was Dimitri right after all? Or was there indeed the sovereign power who would give or take?
She hears the echo of her thoughts: “No, n o ! N O ! ! She cannot, she will not surrender her own deep seated instinct no matter how desperate she may feel! She does not believe in superman, neither in fate nor being tested, or any such insane suggestions. She would be lying to herself. She believes in chance, but as she already stated, not everything is chance what appears as that. She may have accidentally landed in this house, but it is no accident or just chance that it lead to her illness. But does it really matter, chance or fate? It is after all of little or no significance. What matters is the question, could she live in infirmity or not?! All questions end finally in the fundamental one: Life or death?
Femina was generally for life. She saw it as something extraordinary, fantastic, mysterious, indeed a wonder, just walking back the evolutionary pathway, or considering the future potential it holds. The seemingly unknown lies in the before and the after. But it is knowledge she has, always had in fact, just having no access to it, after losing consciousness and suffering since and so far from amnesia and disorientation. Now she has access, apparently through the gates of Hades. The door has opened, may be only a little, but wide enough to allow her the gaze down into the deep, of her and all memory. And it does not even seem all important. It does not even give her great joy or much relief. All pales in the face of the decision waiting for her to be made, ‘Life or death?’ Even the house which holds her hostage and sure is at least partially to blame for her illness, has lost its importance, is only of secondary interest. But, as strange as it may be, she has to give thanks to her illness too! Had she not sworn to search for her memory when she found herself bare of almost all knowledge and lost in a strange world without orientation, forced to make her way alone and without help? Did she not become more and more complacent in her pursuit? Not only for the reason that it was tedious and that the progress was hardly worth the struggle, but finally had she not felt happy anyway, even without her memory? Well, the illness has now catapulted her back into reality. In fact, it has done even better; it brought essential knowledge back into her consciousness: So! She comes out of Nothing; she is matter, a product of forces, and as such a carrier of the undefined potential that underlies and superimposes on all and everything. She got caught up in a three dimensional world, with the fourth dimension just opening and others still amiss; she has landed in a ‘cul de sac’, is an evolutionary dead end, on which she imprints her will, this way or the other.
Her head sinks down to the back-rest of the bench. Her eyes are shut by lids of stone. Clouds of emptiness float by her inner sight, consoling her ever so more. To come from nothing, to go back to nothing comforts her. To give up her existence is however hard, regardless. That raises again the questions of why, what is her angst, what really is there to mourn?
She remembers what is often used to encourage someone unfortunate: ‘One has to push on, give his best, because only then one can claim victory, only then one has not been defeated. But life is not necessarily a sporting event or just a quest for medals in the Olympics. Ambitions are fine, but it is not for everyone and are they really worth the trouble after all? The cripple turns into a ‘Golden Boy’ in the left over discipline, the unlucky served badly by fate becomes the model and the perfect example for the desperate and struggling,…….. That is admirable, but it has not in itself general validity, it belongs to the individual. She congratulates the heroes, they deserve their accolades, but she is not of the kind or after exemplary achievements. No matter if society concedes it as desirable or even expects it of the individual as an obligation or duty! Does she want it though? NO!!!
Femina is aware of the uniqueness of her life, but as withering plant? That is a nightmare from which she better awakes. Of course, this uniqueness and the irreplaceable of her life i s t h e hurdle she has to take, that is what she has to give up, that is what she has to mourn. She believes all life is valuable, even her own with the illness. She feels obligated not to discard it frivolously, and also not because it seems to be the easier solution to her problem. The easy looking way may not necessarily be the best choice.
But what does she think about the various religious teachings? All propagate some kind of after-life and all are against suicide, threatening punishment should one want to go ahead. Could there be some truth in it? She takes a deep breath and expels the air in dismay but is not prepared to ignore these thoughts. After all, every religion has its wisdom which she holds in high regard. But, and that is the reason for her dismay, they teach a lot of nonsense too. Well, she can be called an atheist, meaning that she has no God, but it is correct only to the point of not belonging to any specific congregation. She is in fact m a d e ‘godless’. Consequently, and she agrees, she is an ‘Existentialist’, but once again, not to the exact meaning of the philosophical theories she knows. She therefor is neither nor or as well as, in this or that way. Indeed! These thoughts get her nowhere and certainly can have no influence on her decision making. Other’s opinion has little to offer.
That’s that! There is only one remaining question that she has to ask: ‘What purpose does she attribute to her life?’ Well, when she is dead nothing counts, not any of her deeds, no matter how good they may have been. They are not the purpose of her life. The purpose of her life is but depending on the health of her body. If the body is useless, she must discard it, like you do with old worn out shoes. She does not want to be a burden for anyone, she does not want to be grateful to anyone. She wants to help not being helped. She wants to see the world, not sit in her chamber and see it through gadgets that deliver a virtual reality while she can hardly move any more. The purpose of her life lies in loving and giving, not in hating and taking, in happiness, not suffering, within the positive not negative, of any kind.
However! So far she has looked at only one side of her illness, the destructive and devastating one. But may be the illness has a purpose itself as it has in some way already demonstrated. Is it possible that her illness could bring her results and realizations that she would otherwise never be able to have? A crippled hero after all? Pity, the prize to pay seems far too high. How did Jesus pray when he foresaw his suffering: “My father, let the chalice pass me by!” She can only join in, though her suffering of course does not compare with his however devastating her illness may seem to her.
The voices coming from the screen press for her attention. It appears as if the volume had been turned up.
“It is absolutely ridiculous to refute creation and the creator. It does not matter that God was not found when man went into space! But can you really answer the question how the universe came about and where life comes from? Aren’t you familiar with the “causa prima”??”
The face of the co-worker is flushed and his eyes spark angrily and triumphantly. He believes to have a solid argument at hand because so far nobody really could offer an explanation of the “primary cause” for creation. For him this proves the existence of God.
There is a pause, Phil not answering straight away. Indeed, the ‘causa prima’ can hardly be discounted because even science cannot answer all questions of creation, particularly not its origin. Even the “Big Bang Theory” cannot. From ‘Nothing’ nothing can come. That is firmly anchored in all the brains, particularly the ones who have no lateral thinking. Despite the old gods having lost immensely on credibility, the new gods of science, though credible, they certainly are not infallible. And science confirms the validity of the causa prima by putting mass and measure to everything, even to the unimaginable small point at the beginning of the ‘Big Bang’, - it is therefore not really nothing.
Phil answers after all: “Tom, I don’t want to argue with you. You are free to believe in whatever you want, but you have to allow me to do the same. Please take note of what I have to say now, because it makes my position unmistakably clear: I take the liberty to question traditions, dogma, and science’s teachings. I feel indebted to all, but I take liberty to question the propagated ‘Absolute’ and at the same time I elevate the ‘Relative’ to the same level as the Absolute. Its claim for dominance cannot be justified. That opens up new perspectives. I may lose some illusions on the way, but not to be stuck on the given, is stimulating, at least for me. – I think we better stop our discussion. It will not get us any further, if we carried on.”
Tom settles down. “My apology,” he says, “I know, and I agree. I can’t help it, but I always find it difficult to accept, that others may not share my convictions. We might just have a better discussion another time.” Winking and smiling he says his good bye.
Femina remembers how pleased she was when he left. She was interested in Phil’s views, not in Tom’s. Phil was ‘avant garde’, Tom was ‘establishment’. Phil had noticed her restraint in the discussion and had interpreted correctly. He says: “You have been awfully silent. You don’t share Tom’s opinion, don’t you?”
She nods. Keen to hear Phil’s, she wanted to entice him to talk. That is of course best done with an open question. Slowly and emphasizing every word she asks:
“What do y o u b e l i e v e ?” The question is too complex to allow just a simple answer. It is after all not enough to say, I do or don’t believe in God.
He looks at her thoughtfully and in silence. It seemed he had to make up his mind if he should indeed engage in another discussion with her. Finally he says:
“Well, I am a so called atheist, though that is only superficially the case in the sense of not belonging to a certain congregation. I have my own philosophy, my kind of believe. Of course, it is more than that. I am convinced, and it will be indeed only a matter of time when my theories can be strengthened by facts. It means, I am not different to any other believer who insists to know the truth.”
Impatiently she asks again: “So what do you believe?”
Again, there is this inquisitive look at her but he answers, smiling, more to himself than at her: “I believe in me,” he says.
Femina suddenly feels a shift in time, just as if no time had passed between then, meeting Phil; and now, sitting in this room on death-row. She experiences relief and joy from this answer. She hears her saying that she had kind of anticipated something like that, but she wanted to know more, in particular, what it meant practically for his life.
“Well”, says Phil, “I am the created and I am creator. I am my God, or if you like, and in another way, I am God.” His smile deepens, his gaze wanders into the distance and silence is about him.
And so it is with her, here and now. Femina feels the stillness from within. It is so comforting to be with people who speak the same language, to meet the same minded, though of course there cannot be an identical sameness, but they are from and operate on the same plain. Phil was partner, not opponent, both trying to find answers without forcing others to come along. She knew then that he was one of her kind, was from the same breed. A chance meeting but always welcome and so it is now that she is reminded of it. She feels the same comfort realizing that she was not alone, not then and not now.