I'm falling off the face of the earth until Thursday. One distributed web-crawler and one speech-enabled grocery list coming up.
I finished Slaughterhouse Five. It's a book about fatalism, about a man who has come unstuck in time and continually revisits and relives his life, out of order. But since he's already done everything he's about to relive, he is a little helpless against his circumstances. As aliens from Tralfamadore explain to him, events are as they are out of mechanical necessity, not by choice. (In a way, Heroes is also about this issue.) Billy, the man, is a prisoner of war when Dresden is firebombed. Was that, too, a product of environmental conditions and robotic performance? Should those deaths be shrugged off, like so many others in the book, with another "So it goes"? No, no, never. I can't live like that.
So I give you dueling poems. They can be reconciled if you believe in a fixed past, but a wide-open future. Like many issues in philosophy, such a belief may be a question of thinkers justifying something people have long intuited. Good luck with life for the next few days.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it
Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!