so fateful a decision, so fortuitous a love
Six years ago, sitting in the Dissection Hall, a realization struck me with disquieting intensity: there is not much choice in love. Who you fall in love with, how you fall in love, it's all very circumstantial. It felt, at that time, so arbitrary. It appeared as if the decision to find a partner could either be left to parents (arranged marriage) or to circumstances (love). Suddenly the whole grand idea of loving and marrying by choice seemed to crumble in front of me. Love became contingent.
I must say, these thoughts were, and are, not the final word on the topic. Much more can be said about it. The reason I am bringing them up is that I found those ruminations beautifully echoed by Milan Kundera. It's one of those moments when you read a writer or a philosopher, and discover your own thoughts in them, refined and polished:
"...her words had left Tomas in a strange state of melancholy, and now he realized it was only a matter of chance that Tereza had loved him and not his friend Z. Apart from her consummated love for Tomas, there was, in the realm of possibility, an infinite number of unconsummated loves for other men.
We all reject out of hand the idea that the love of our life may be something light or weightless; we presume our love is what must be, that without it our life would no longer be the same; we feel that Beethoven himself, gloomy and awe-inspiring, is playing the 'Es muss sein!' to our own great love.
Tomas often thought of Tereza's remark about his friend Z, and came to the conclusion that the love story of his life exemplified not 'Es muss sein!' (It must be so), but rather 'Es konnte auch anders sein' (It could just as well be otherwise).
Seven years earlier, a complex neurological case happened to have been discovered at the hospital in Tereza's town. They called in the chief surgeon of Tomas's hospital in Prague for consultation, but the chief surgeon of Tomas's hospital happened to be suffering from sciatica, and because he could not move he sent Tomas to the provincial hospital in his place. The town had several hotels, but Tomas happened to be given room in the one where Tereza was employed. He happened to have had enough free time before his train left to stop at the hotel restaurant. Tereza happened to be on duty, and happened to be serving Tomas's table. It had taken six chance happenings to push Tomas towards Tereza, as if he had little inclination to go to her on his own.
He had gone back to Prague because of her. So fateful a decision resting on so fortuitous a love, a love that would not even have existed had it not been for the chief surgeon's sciatica seven years earlier. And that woman, that personification of absolute fortuity, now again lay asleep beside him, breathing deeply."
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being