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A fortune cookie and my life - Bob Paslay

It is usually only in mediocre B-movies that people have epiphanies about their lives and change them dramatically – a Wall Street broker going to Tibet to grow vegetables.

But I prefer to think of my life more as a "Citizen Kane" movie and so I am not easily changed by things like horoscopes in the morning paper. I do read them and yes, sometimes, I do call a friend or wash the dishes because it tells me to.

I was eating in a small strip-mall Chinese restaurant on 138 in Jonesboro, and this is my fortune from the cookie: "Each man is the smith of his own fortune."

Now I am not sure I agree with this observation." I applaud these sayings on a small strip of white paper. My favorite two sayings are: "Confucius says he who speaks the truth better have one foot in the stirrups" and the Charlie Chan famous line: "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link."

Now I am certain these two are true. I am less certain that a man is the smith of his own fortune.

Excluding diminished mental capacity, let's consider this concept. Just about anyone who applies himself or herself can go to college these days, I believe. And whether you excel or languish is pretty much determined by whether you apply yourself. Pretty much any college graduate can get a job, maybe not the one you want and maybe not in the city you want. But you can keep working to get to the city you want. Here is where I believe the logic breaks down. If you work hard and go the extra mile, can you progress through your chosen profession? I think my Chinese proverb breaks down here. You are pretty much at the whim of the bosses. Many have applied themselves and yet they don't progress. Many do apply themselves and do progress through the ranks. Teachers become assistant principals. Stockers become checkout persons and then eventually assistant managers. You could argue that you could just go to another company if you are in one of those areas where no matter what you do you can't progress. But the varieties of whim exist there also. Your fortune is at the whim of your company. But if you save up and start your own company can you get back on track to be able to forge your own fortune? The Horatio Alger success stories like the Google geniuses would argue that you can. The smaller companies you start and lure you into working 20-hour days and never taking a vacation, in which you infuse blood, sweat and tears can still go belly up. Again, the whim of fate can take possession of your fortune. So on this whole area of work I would have to conclude that it is a mixed bag, sometimes you can forge your own fortune and sometimes you can't.

And what of personal relationships? A friend of mine who is a little younger than his wife once told me he pursued her in college and at first she ignored him. But tenacity paid off. But for the most part I don't think this area is very easy to forge. There are too many factors – looks, chemistry, competition.

A would-be country music song comes to mind: I was forging my own fortune until my honey ran off with the blacksmith. She left me only with smoldering flames." All of country music is in fact a testament to the fact that you are not the smith of your own fortune unless you chain your sweetie to the bed. They are always running off with somebody. Even in the PTL scandal you needed a scorecard to keep up with who was with whom. The one that surprised me was not the teased hair Tammy or the horseface obvious redneck Jim. The one that shocked me was the architect of that Disney-Bibleland. He ended up marrying Tammy. Who would have thought.

I think I have mentioned in the past that I am a Calvinist Presbyterian who believes in predestination. I riled up a Free-will Baptist something fierce a while back when he tried to convert me and I told him I was already a believer in predestination. He told me how stupid I was, in a nice way. He made the classic mistake of trying to dissect my view and apply logic to why it was wrong. It is a classic mistake because religion is based on faith and not logic. I am always amazed that some religious people are not satisfied that you are of the faith. They want you to be of their faith, every thing exactly as they believe.

Anyway, I raise this issue because as a predestinationist I should not allow any room for fortune cookies or horoscopes. Here is how I reason it. It is probably predestined that I would eat at that restaurant on that day and get that exact fortune and so it is part of the plan rather than opposing the plan.

That is why I never labor over what I am going to write each week in this little space. It's predestined that something will cross my path to give me a topic.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com.