Yuanfen

Over coffee this morning, I skim emails on my phone.  There are always too many and lately, rather than even reading the subject line I simply check all the boxes next to emails that weren’t sent by a person in the flesh and blood, whose face I can picture, and then hit “delete.” But as I skim, one subject line pops out at me–from a philosophy website that I subscribe to but rarely read.

amp;q=10+relationship+words+that+cannot+be+translated” target=”_blank”>Top 10 Relationship Words that Cannot be Translated to English”

This gives me pause, because try as I might, I can’t stop thinking about love.  It sounds strange to say that, but it’s easier to admit to it than closet it away.  I think about it when I cook, when I write, when I sleep.  I wander through the farmer’s market pondering love and avocado.  I run along the river considering Neruda. Marquez.  Lahiri.  Yuknavitch. Roethke.  Lopez.  Cather. Plato.  I wonder what it is,and what it means, and what it entails for whom and for how long.  I wonder at its forms and at its nuances.  I wonder how it can be bent and hobbled;  how it can overcome unexpected challenges. I wonder if one kind of love trumps another, or if they are really, really, all the same,deserving the same reverence.  I want answers.

In a flash of inspiration, I remove the check from the box and keep it as I delete my other junk mail.
Later in the evening, after a day spent settling into the home I am making in Australia, with my boyfriend, far from my real home and from my past, I think back to the saved email.  I grab my phone and fall into one of the mauve, leather couches that we have scored for free from our old hotel.  They’re incredibly comfortable, despite being mauve and leather.  I open the email and read through the first few, until my gaze settles on one description in particular.

Yuanfen:  A relationship by fate or destiny.  A complex concept that draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters, and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends; a binding force that links two people together in any relationship.”

In this description, counter to popular conception, fate and destiny are distinct things, which makes for an interesting exploration of love between the fated versus that of the destined.

I think of fate without destiny.   I think of love without destiny.  I think of fate without love– and fate with love.  I think of destiny without fate.  The permutations are startling in their number. This is what yuanfen means, I guess.  The chance of any two people sharing a moment, or a year, or a boat ride, are so small.  Fate brings two people together, but only destiny keeps them on the same course.

I think of my deepening yoga practice and the readings of the Dalai Lama which have been informing my daily routine. I think of relational existence and attachment.  I think of the rube goldberg that is life if all is predetermined in the way yuanfen suggests.  And I look around, and here I am in Australia, and I am happy.

I wonder at yuanfen some more.

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