John Lennon’s Tooth and The Machineries of Fate.

It is a given fact that you guys like to disturb me. I don’t know why that is. I’d take it for granted that, in fact, life disturbs me enough. Take taxes, for instance — oh, wait. Los Federales already did. They have great need of money to eat it or something. Never mind.

Perhaps in an effort to distract me from running around the house repeating RAH’s dictum that you should be wary of strong drink: it might make you shoot at tax collectors and MISS, one of you told me about this dentist in … Alberta? Who bought one of John Lennon’s teeth (who even sells that?) and who plans to “clone John Lennon.”

Okay, as publicity it might be okay, though – I don’t know about you – I’d be hesitant to go to a dentist – any doctor really – who is into macabre souvenirs.

But the idea…

My answer to the reprobate who told me about it was to point out that we already have plenty of broken misfits around. I think he was a little taken aback, so I had to explain.

This is not the case with every one, of course, but speaking for me and a lot of other writers I know – and Lord help us, plastic artists are WORSE – art is what happens when you break somebody, then put them under unbearable pressure. Imagine if you will living, animated, sentient coal, and you’re trying to make diamonds. You apply enormous pressure…

And sometimes you’re going to get the diamond. The misfit will reorganize, re-integrate, find an outlet, and the result is something rarer and far better than mere human coal. But this being humans, most of the time you’re just going to get coal dust or perhaps diamond chips.

The resemblance between artists and madmen has been noted through history, but it’s slightly sideways from the truth. The truth is not that artists are mad, but rather like they achieved a state supra-madness where they function fine because they have that artistic outlet.

Now, I’m not quite that way, but then as you know I’m more craftswoman than artist.

Anyway, what shocked me about that story is that artist or not, Lennon’s success; his fame; his contribution to the world of music and the performing arts, is even more dependent on chance, on just how high that pressure was turned, when.

Regardless of what you think of his solo career it came after the Beatles, and might never have been what it was without the Beatles, and besides the Beatles is arguably his greatest contribution. What I mean is, absent the Beatles, he’d never have been the John Lennon he was, for good or ill. (This is something I tried to capture in Superlamb Banana. And yes, oh my, that does need another cover. Sigh.)

And that surely isn’t expressed in his genes. Unless you think of genes as sort of a magic destiny, the sort that the fairygodmothers used to give people over their cradle.

You might, of course. It’s a new and popular theory. Everything we are and everything we achieve is supposed to be there, in our genes, ready to happen. This Calvinistic (but not religious) view of humanity of course presupposes that the future is pre-written. We are, if you will, lines of code in a program we can’t help follow.

This is very similar to the Portuguese idea of fate which, Portugal being heavily influenced by Islam, is still central to the culture. You hear even educated people say things like “We all follow our fate.”

And it annoys me. It is, if you will, part of the Widgetization of humanity.

The left is going for this in a big way, without ever admitting it’s what their doing, just their their assumption of culture being genetic is never admitted to be full on racism. (It is. What else would it be? White people are endlessly protean, but if you are an interesting sub-race/culture, then you have to follow a script and know your place? Straight up racism!)

They’re going for this fate and pre-ordained thing in a big way because it’s a logical follow on their idea that nothing is your fault. If everything is scripted, its’ wrong to hold crimes against criminals. It also fits right in with the number of extreme left people who are radical losers. You might have an IQ of 180 and be living in a trashy apartment and raiding trash cans for garbage, but it was all planned, and it’s not your fault. Oh, yeah, and you can’t escape, so making the effort to actually integrate into society? Not possible. It will only fail.

Of course this destroys human freedom.

I’ve said of this before, that even if it were true (and if it were, we couldn’t prove it, barring proving the entire universe is a computer program) it would be evil to believe it. It would rob all existence of meaning and all humans of individuality. However, what we know seems to show it’s not true. I mean, maybe someone scripted me to have my particular life so far, in which case you have to wonder if they were sane (sorry) but I, like all of us, can see the errors, the failures, the slips – and what might have been. And it was not forbidden to me.

Of course, the jokers who believe this bilge then say that you don’t really think: you just follow a script, and then rationalize your actions.

While a lot of people do this, and a lot of us do it at times in minor stuff — like we forget we were going to make a cake and when we’re halfway through making a soufflé, we do the cat thing “I meant to do that” — I beg to differ. Major decisions are usually weighed by everyone but the very infantile, and the ones who believe that they can’t help themselves.

Again this is the widgetization of people. It’s making people things who would all act the same way given certain genes. Yeah, some twin studies purport to show that, to an extent, but I always wonder about the ones that don’t make cute lifeline stories. Oh, sure, the tendencies are in your genes. But what you make of them is your choice.

You’re not the sum of your ancestry. You’re not a widget. You’re not the slave to the culture you were born in. The future is yours to mold.

And as for John Lennon, poor man, who the heck needs another kid with funny glasses, a lot of uncontrolled aggression and some musical talent? He left children, in the normal way of mankind. Let that be enough for his contribution, and let him rest in peace.


107 responses to “John Lennon’s Tooth and The Machineries of Fate.

  1. If I’m a Calvinist, then I can’t help but comment as it was already predetermined that I’d do so. Gah, what a nasty bit of sophistry that is. Free will is what separates us from the animals (well,,,among other things). They have no choice but to act on instinct.

    If you cloned John Lennon, you would not get his duplicate. Lennon 2.0 would have completely different circumstances and opportunities and therefore would make different choices. He’d be just as likely to be a plumber as a musician.

    I’m with you. One was enough.

  2. My own carpe la dime: “Wedgetization”

    Is that implying that humans may, collectively, be as subtle as a metric butt-load of splitting wedges? Sure, gather enough into one place and apply the right pressures percussively, we can destroy just about anything — or at least subdivide it so that we can handle the results.

    (Oh. WIDGET as a collective conversion process to produce same becomes wedgetization?)

    [Very Byg Evyl Gryn]

  3. wedge it in there — *ducking the carp

  4. Take taxes, for instance — oh, wait. Los Federales already did. They have great need of money to eat it or something.

    Does this mean they are dragons?

    (What? Well, I read a story once where dragons ate Gold, so there!)

  5. Arwen Riddle

    Clones are people two.

  6. It’s a great way to feel like you have control of the situation, especially if you reject all supernatural (approximate translation: ‘I will mock that as ignorant and that means I proved it ain’t so!’) options.

  7. Well, if something really _weird_ and unpredictable happens (a meteorite falls on my head, and my astronomer brother is forced to wonder about the fate of the rock as well as of myself), I can see talking about fate. If it’s predictable, why drag fate in?

  8. Here’s a twenty year old joke: “(Overheard in music store) The Beatles? Weren’t they Paul McCartney’s band before ‘Wings’?”

    • Worse. “Did you know Paul McCartney had a band before Wings?”

      • Worse — my kids to my brother who IS a boomer — “Who are the Beatles?” And, to the names, “Never heard.” My brother hit the roof.

        • Kids trolling their uncle. No respect for their seniors.

        • I’m not offended. The Beatles were always just O.K. to me. Then ’65, I heard the Byrds on the radio, and was hooked for life.

        • Unfortunately I can’t say the same as your kids. I WISH I had never had to hear the Beatles, unfortunately I had an English teacher in high school who was in love with them and not only played their music whenever she wasn’t talking in class, but had posters of them on all the walls.
          I have manage to successfully suppress most of those memories and the only song I can recall off the top of my head is Yellow Submarine, but I can recall plainly that they never had a single song that I liked.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          When I was younger, I was either indifferent to or actively hated that whole generation of popular musical ‘artists’, and the surrounding ones. If somebody had stuffed them all in a bog, I would have been happy or uncaring. I knew some of the names, because I read widely, and tended to remember things. Not because of any positive mental associations.

          Now, my tastes in music have broadened some.

          If I can choose the piece, the time, and the volume, I can enjoy genres I hated on principle twenty years ago.

          I still have some extremely negative associations with some of it.

          The rest of what I could say falls into ‘I am my own best example of why tyranny is a significantly harmful form of government’. That or #FirstWorldProblems.

      • And now it’s, “Who’s Wings?”

  9. The clone can then do a cover of this song:

  10. Brandon Sanderson has a short story about a guy who happens to be a clone. The guy who was cloned is a military genius. His clone, on the other hand, describes himself as someone who can take a guaranteed winning situation, follow the textbook strategy, and still lose the battle.


    On a more serious note, identical twins show how silly it is to imagine that genetically identical individuals will end up living identical lives.

    • Identical twins, at that, have nine-months shared environment. Clones may be farther afield

    • Do some reading on twin studies, and you’ll start to doubt that. I met a twin who’d been given up for adoption shortly after he was born. He didn’t know he was a twin until his mid-thirties, and had his twin contact him out of the blue.

      What was spooky was hearing him tell me first-hand how much they had in common, right down to the time and method of breaking their arms in high-school. Only difference was that one of them broke his forearm, and the other broke the upper arm just above the elbow… I’ve read stuff about the twin studies where things like that have happened, but it was very strange to encounter someone like that in real life. The strangest thing was how similar the two women they’d married were–If you’d put the two couples up on a wall in photographs, you’d have a hard time telling they weren’t two sets of twins that had married each other.

      I don’t know where the actual dividing line is, between nature and nurture, but the longer I live, and the more I see, I’m convinced that there’s a considerable bias towards nature. It’s very strange to see behavioral tics and gestures played out in a kid who could have never met the individual he’s mimicking, despite the fact that the behaviorists tell us that those traits are all learned. I don’t agree–There’s some component of genetic influence, whose mechanism we just haven’t figured out, as of yet. How much, you ask? No idea, but I’ll wager that it’s a lot higher than 50%.

      • I’d read about such as well, but I haven’t heard of the theories as to why those similarities in life/behavior/choices/etc happen in separated twins. Have you? I’d be keen to hear about it if you have.

      • While I’m a believer in the woo-woo type stuff– from experience– some of the things that are pointed to as eerie in twins holds just as true for siblings, or cousins– for example, I broke the same bone of the same foot at the same time my mom did when I was a kid. It probably has to do with being an idiot unwilling to slow down and our bodies being starved for calcium after nursing for so long, but disliking milk, plus leading with the same foot.

        Take two guys who are built the same, of the same age, and if they break something doing something it’ll probably be about the same time and doing a thing that complements their build.

        For the women– look at their adoptive mothers. If the adoption agency did the use to be usual thing of trying to “match” infants to their new parents, then there’s a good chance the guys’ adoptive mothers and their wives have some racial/regional characteristics; I’m also wondering if possibly infant adopted kids reverse the known tendency for people to be attracted to less related folks’ smell– someone that smells like them would be exotic…..

        There’s also the problem that when you go over several decades, you’re going to find SOME things in common.
        The girl with my name (different middle name, but if my mom’s favorite aunt hadn’t died just before my birth, we would’ve had identical names) had the same build, same coloration, same hair, very similar eyes, both need correction for near-sightedness, she was only about a half inch taller and we were both in Aviation. Her family was second generation out of Germany, while mine is the British isles/Ireland, and there were STILL a lot of similarities.
        And that was just at 18, barely into the Navy!

        • My brother and I are different genders (duh) and ten years apart and our politics are a mile away. BUT if I’m reading SF/F or mystery at night, I can tell you the book he’s reading. The same. At the same time. It’s eerie. Works some with history, but since I read a lot of that for work, not as much.

  11. Christopher M. Chupik

    Reprobate? Okay, I guess you’ve got me there. 😛

  12. Of course they endorse widgetizing people — the primary demand unions make in any business they infest is for workplace rules that establish production standards.

  13. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I certainly don’t need another John Lennon. I don’t see that I ever had any use or benefit of the first one.

  14. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    There are problems with that part of Calvinist theology but I was hearing people claim “This is what Calvinists believe” that’s far from my understanding of Calvinism.

    • When a French lawyer starts writing theology, look out. Especially when he’s working from other theologians’ thoughts. Whatever comes out is going to be complicated, erudite, and odd. (With apologies to my Calvinist friends who take great comfort in their beliefs and faith community.)

      • I don’t find Calvinism very comforting– it was the same thing I felt when the doctor said that my disease was no fault of my own– so destiny? For someone who wanted to be independent and free, that little “comfort” is not easy to hear. I would rather know what I did that caused it and correct it. 😉