Ideas

The 2002 CBC Massey Lectures, "Beyond Fate"

People today are often afflicted with a sense that they cannot change things for the better. They feel helpless, constrained, caught -- in a word, fatalistic. Beyond Fate, Margaret Visser's 2002 CBC Massey Lecture, examines why. In her characteristic lively and highly engaging prose, Visser investigates what fate means to us, and where the propensity to believe in it and accept it comes from.
People today are often afflicted with a sense that they cannot change things for the better. They feel helpless, constrained, caught — in a word, fatalistic. Beyond Fate, Margaret Visser's 2002 CBC Massey Lecture, examines why. In her characteristic lively and highly engaging prose, Visser investigates what fate means to us, and where the propensity to believe in it and accept it comes from.


She takes an ancient metaphor where time is "seen" and spoken of as though it were space; she examines how this way of picturing reality can be a useful tool to think with -- or, on the other hand, how it may lead us into disastrous misunderstandings. There are ways out. We begin by observing how fatalism expresses itself in our daily lives, in everything from table manners and shopping to sport. Having learned to detect the signs by which fatalism begins to manifest itself, we can go on to consider how to limit its influence over us, thereby gaining new perspective on our lives and our cultures.

Margaret Visser was born in South Africa, studied at the Sorbonne, and received her doctorate in Classics from the University of Toronto. She writes on the history, anthropology, and mythology of everyday life. She is the author of four bestselling books: The Geometry of Love, finalist for the Charles Taylor Prize; Much Depends on Dinner, winner of the Glenfiddich Award for Food Book of the Year; The Rituals of Dinner, which won the International Association of Culinary Professionals' Literary Food Writing Award, and the Jane Grigson Award; and The Way We Are, a collection of essays.

Her books have been translated into French, German, Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese. She appears frequently on radio and television, and has lectured extensively in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Australia. She divides her time among Toronto, Barcelona, and South-West France.

Beyond Fate is published by House of Anansi.

Listen
The 2002 CBC Massey Lectures by Margaret Visser | 54:23
The 2002 CBC Massey Lectures by Margaret Visser | 54:23
The 2002 CBC Massey Lectures by Margaret Visser | 54:23
The 2002 CBC Massey Lectures by Margaret Visser | 54:23
The 2002 CBC Massey Lectures by Margaret Visser | 54:22

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