Friday, September 25, 2020

Tempting Fate

Alcatraz Island (1895)
Houdini pulled off a number of escapes and then there are the famous prison breaks, mostly recently the one engineered by two inmates from the Clinton Correctional Facility a notorious maximum-security prison in upper New York State. When you look at some of these fortresses, it’s astonishing that anyone could have engineered their freedom and, of course, there was the breakout from Stalag Luft III, documented in The Great Escape (1963). All of these required ingenuity, bravery and above all an uncommon tenacity and perseverance. However, how does one escape the self-fulfilling prophecy that’s often one’s own existence? How's it possible to derail the train of determinism by which past experience incarcerates the present? Oedipus famously brought about the thing he most feared by trying to avoid it. He never would have found himself at the crossroads, where he murdered his own father Laius, unless he were trying to escape fate. Perhaps the reality of life itself is more benign. Some people rise above their circumstances. Despite having grown up in broken homes, with drug-addled parents, they go on to live useful and productive lives replete with satisfying relationships and families of their own. But many are lured back to the darkness of the underworld, and end up bringing down those around with them. Orpheus was told not to look back. Yet he couldn’t control his desires, something for which he and his beloved Eurydice would suffer for eternity.

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