The Nature Institute

The Nature Institute 
20 May Hill Road, Ghent, New York 12075  Tel: (518) 672 0116

Home | Our Education Programs | Our Publications | Content Areas | Writings Ordered by Author | Resources and Links | Contact Us | Search

Extraordinary Lives: Disability and Destiny in a Technological Age
Stephen L. Talbott

Chapter 3: The Many Voices of Destiny

This chapter is a review of Expecting Adam by Martha Beck (New York: Random House, 1999). Hardcover, 328 pages, $23.95.

Science has steadily pulled back from the fullness of our experience, contracting into a subtle and pinched search for reliable mechanisms, abstract and remote. In the face of this science, it is difficult to hold onto any conviction that we bring a resolve, or task, or destiny with us to earth and that we converse with this destiny through all the circumstances of our lives. Such intimations of destiny as we may encounter almost inevitably fade toward the indistinct margins of our existence. Or else they erupt into flaky theories all the more understandable given that the prevailing science, with its necessary discipline, has abandoned the field.

It's not much use arguing for or against any notion of destiny in general terms. All we can do is to look at our lives as fully and dispassionately as possible, ignoring nothing because of our presuppositions. Then we can try to hear what, if anything, speaks through the whole.

Or else look at someone else's life. The author of Expecting Adam offers us such a life -- or, rather, a group of lives -