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Believing in fate has probably always arisen in part because of the delights and terrors of storytelling. We have to realize--to learn--that in life we are not the readers but the authors of our own narratives.


Food is "everyday"--it has to be, or we would not survive for long. But food is never just something to eat. It is something to find or hunt or cultivate first of all; for most of human history we have spent a much longer portion of our lives worrying about food, and plotting, working, and fighting to obtain it, than we have in any other pursuit. As soon as we can count on a food supply (and so take food for granted), and not a moment sooner, we start to civilize ourselves.

MARGARET VISSER, Much Depends on Dinner

Food--what is chosen from the possibilities available, how it is presented, how it is eaten, with whom and when, and how much time is allotted to cooking and eating it--is one of the means by which a society creates itself and acts out its aims and fantasies.

MARGARET VISSER, Much Depends on Dinner

Fate plays a role in many heroic legends. Oedipus must kill the Sphinx because the prize is the queen, his mother, whom he is fated to marry. The word "sphinx" in Greek, cognate with "sphincter," is from sphingo, meaning "I clutch" or "I strangle." She is herself a version of necessity, the tight outline that is the periphery of the universe. Like the Furies and other monsters embodying fate, the Sphinx is a mixed creature, in her case part woman, part lion. When Oedipus answers the riddle and destroys the monster, he thinks that he is liberating a foreign city called Thebes; but in fact, killing the fatal Sphinx allows him to go home, as heroes must--home to complete his fate. He had murdured his father "at the place where the three roads meet" -- the crossroads, the junction of choice. Having killed the obstructive stranger, his father, he had felt "free" -- to take the fatal road home, to encounter the Sphinx, and so to win his mother for his bride, as the Oracle of Apollo had foretold.



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