Behind a Podium

Storch-Badge-MasterThe past cannot be cured.”

His hands gripped the sides of the podium and he forced a slow exhalation, relaxed them. He had requested the positioning of the spotlight so that he wouldn’t be able to make out specific faces in the audience, but a few shadowy visages eeked through.

“You are here tonight to hear what I have to say on the causality of decision making on potential futures. As a re-incarnate, and one bound outside the circle of seclusion, I have a unique perspective on the concept of past and present. I still, however, am not able to gaze into a crystal ball and tell your future.” There was a polite murmur of laughter. That would end soon enough. This next bit had a tendency to annoy his new listeners.

“People agonize over decision making. They fear and desire the option that they didn’t choose. At unhappy moments they pore over their memories, which, as an aside, are rarely as accurate as they believe, and try to pinpoint an exact moment, an exact choice, that they made incorrectly. I am going to tell you an unadulterated truth that I have discovered over the past six lifetimes. The majority of your choices will make no appreciable difference on the outcome of your life.”

He paused, not for dramatic effect, but to let the scoffing and the outrage wash over the crowd. People hated this bit. Their determined ignorance was growing to annoy him and he stifled the urge to explain to them that he wasn’t taking their money to tell them what they wanted to hear. If that was what they wanted then they could go find a fortune teller with a crystal ball. He was here to tell them what he knew.

“It’s true,” he began, raising his voice over the protests that were thrown back at him. “Just listen for a minute. Listen. Most days, whether you choose to wear a white shirt or a black shirt it isn’t going to affect your day. However, if you choose a white shirt, and then you also choose to buy a latte and it spills down your front while you’re running late on your way to work, it can affect your day. It can alter your mood, which in turn can alter your decision making, your interactions with others, even your sense of self if your sense of self is tied into your appearance. Now, this is an important bit. What would you have done differently, if you had known you would spill that latte? Picked a black shirt? Maybe you got a white chocolate mocha instead and the whipped cream would stain your shirt. Spend thirty minutes in your closet, attempting to think through every possible outfit collaboration available for the least likely to show a stain? Life, and chance, will thwart you at every turn.”

“This is not the bleak outlook it may seem to be on the surface. One lifetime, I made my choices based on the heart. One, I followed my head. One life I let chance take the wheel. One I lived for a desire of power. The fifth I lived only for beauty. And the sixth? I choose honestly. I am honest with myself about what I want, and with others about who I am.”

“In every single life that I have lived, I have felt pain and heartbreak, I have felt joy. I’ve laughed and loved, made love and fucked like a bunny. I’ve been happy and sad, gotten and lost things that I wanted, lost arguments and won fights. It didn’t matter what color shirt I had chosen that day, I was either going to spill something on it or I wasn’t. There was no lifetime that I ‘got right’, forgive the air quotes. No matter what I did, I didn’t ever get through one life without making wrong choices. I didn’t attain enlightenment or perfection; I hurt others, mostly by accident, lost my temper sometimes. But I lived. I made choices and abided by them and didn’t look back. The only things that changed were my surroundings, my trappings, my details.”

“I have learned that life should just be lived. This is a messy, arduous and beautiful process. Stop agonizing yourselves into anxiety attacks, stop wondering if you should or shouldn’t. Stop preparing. It doesn’t matter all that much in the long run. Tomorrow morning, instead of dithering around about this or that, remember that, already? You have entered the winter of your life.”


In her first turn as Professor, SAM changed things up in the Master Class. To keep things interesting, last weeks chosen winners each had to pick the first line of a book for us to both begin and end our story with. Michael of Innocents and Accidents, Hints and Allegations chose Winter Journal by Auster You have entered the winter of your life and Tina from Not Just Another Mother Blogger chose Shadow of the Night by Deborah Harkness The past cannot be cured (I’m not familiar with this book but I really like the line)

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Behind a Podium

  1. I wish I had 6 lives to figure it out. Maybe I’ve had 6 lives but am just not aware of it like he is. I like that memory line – they aren’t as accurate as you think. Like my post (great comment, by the way!). I love that we hear his interior monologue through the speech. Nice detail at the start that he didn’t want to see the faces. It’s cool how we are the audience following along thinking how bleak his speech is, and then he tells us it’s not as bleak as it sounds, and sure enough – just live your life is the somewhat uplifting end. Well done. And thought provoking… I always like that.

    • Ha, I think Memory is my theme word for this month- I had been thinking a lot about my own in general, slow motion superpower specifically ;), wrote my post based on the fact that I couldn’t wrangle my real ones into any discernible order, then I read yours (which I loved, because you still remember a memory that may or not be accurate, and because you’re awesome). Then I grabbed a random Pratchett book this morning for some light reading and it’s talking about how every decision every person makes is important to the universe, which completely contradicts my story 🙂

      • We could argue as to who is more awesome, but I’ll go with a mutual admiration as I am a huge fan of your mind and how it works. 🙂 Collective consciousness is a term often heard in the hippie town I live in. They would agree with Pratchett. I think Cloud Atlas was getting at that too. But that doesn’t mean the character in your story is wrong. It really doesn’t matter what color shirt we choose, things like that. If so, we’d never leave the house. Bigger things, sure. I like thinking about this story – the idea of a “memory” of our previous lives.

      • ~snicker~ we could be the Mutual Admiration Dead Poets Society, but only if I can be Knox because he was adorable and awkward ;). An artist friend of mine told me that I HAVE TO SEE Cloud Atlas, but me and big crowds don’t always mix so I have to wait for DVD; I’ve heard wonderful things. Sometimes, especially based on the fact that, love them as I do, I am basically nothing like my family, I feel like I’ve ‘carried over’ my moral and ethical code from somewhen else…

  2. Damn – that was such a unique take, and a fun read. Bravo!

  3. Interesting. If we assume that your speaker is correct and that decisions don’t matter – that life and chance will thwart you – does that affect freewill?

    • Nope, I don’t think so. Chance and random happenstance don’t necessarily equate to destiny. It’s not that life is thwarting your choices to push you onto a predetermined path, especially seeing as there are an infinite number of paths to be thrown onto. It’s just, you know, messing you about 😉

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