"How did you get here?"

Does the question not look familiar? I have heard bloggers/magazine editors ask that of their readers; advertisers use programmes to calculate it; successful people being asked it, &c, &c.
There is also something inherently fascinating about tracking the course of a person's life. And isn't it curious that the hardships people face in pursuit of a goal seem diminished when they recount their path to fulfillment? People will abandon you as you are on "the way," but everyone will want to be your friend if you make it. I feel like I am doing a poor imitation of Lao Tzu when I write that.
I was just listening to a podcast on The Moth, which I had never heard of before today, in which a man from an astronaut family recounts how he made his trip to space as one of the first civils to do so. It is a 15-minute story, which leaves out the years of waiting - and surely the times of doubt. I think that we all have many more goals than we are even aware of, and it is only in their realisation that we fully become conscious of them (otherwise, they remain dreams). The story was so compelling: mostly due to the raconteur's humility, but also due to the way he presented his certainty of purpose as being present early on. Is such a perspective not afforded best through retrospect? This is the power of climax, an effect that is relative to an individual's life. To tell a story "backwards" (from the perspective of new information obtained later) reorders our understanding of our own lives as they happen, and inspires us to look for "auspicious signs" along the way. (I would say "writing on the wall," but the origin of this phrase is rather grim - a moral warning for the heartless.)
Do we notice the signs that predict our direction?
I have had to answer the question in this blog's title many times. Even if I had never been interested in narrative, writing, etc, such circumstances (like being a "stranger") do require the story. As writers know, a story needs purpose to be good - but what I find in telling a story of self as it is happening is that the story lends back to the experience in crystalising the purpose. Being asked the question already forces the answerer towards some kind of resolution. (But here lies a trap: the narrower the range/depth of the question, the less truthful the answer will be. There will always be history and culture involved - and this is only scratching at the surface. Beneath this is something like etymology; the symbols, the higher meaning, genesis...
There is another trap: not all stories are true, or resonate with self. The subject is not always what one "wants," but it is something valuable - though it comes with harsh criticism, and this is probably why one loses track of it for a while before regaining it in full knowledge of its worth, ready this time to keep it.)
When I began this post, I had the phrase "stick-in-the-mud" on my mind; I felt apologetic for often wanting to dig behind the surface of things for the earlier, original meaning. I thought I could be termed a "sitck-in-the-mud." But this phrase refers to someone who enjoys remaining in the mud, and is not interested in moving to cleaner, brighter circumstances. So, perhaps the one who never questions behind the question is the one who is stuck in the mud. We are all called to our true forms; we can all have our fascinating answer to the question: "How did you get here?" The question requires movement: from before to forwards.
Another aspect of The Moth podcast that I appreciated was that the raconteur, on the way to accomplishing his purpose, launched his career - and very successfully so - in a topically unrelated field. It reminded me of the Chinese proverb, which is something like: the willows you so carefully tended to did not bear fruit, but the seeds that you accidentally dropped by the wayside created an abundance of shade. Purpose does not have to lie in the obvious, and can actually begin as secondary to the story. Purpose is achieved in the resolution, so there is an aspect of mystery and transformation involved.
Today, despite the fact that it was -5C, I went out on my friend's boat, and as per the way such outings go, my other friend went out on his kayak. Everything on the river was totally still. There weren't even ducks, just the occasional seagull. And later, a swan pair that I first thought were statues until one of them moved. All I could hear was the motor, and the splash of the water. Not another person out on the water. Not another person on the little floating houses scribbled on the shore. And at the horizon, the water and the sky disappeared into a fog.
When we finally got to the fish restaurant, there were about twenty men singing to a guitar and banjo, raising their small glasses.
If I think of any activity that would string together the purposeful moments of life, this would be the penultimate activity, even though I got back a few hours ago and am still shivering.
There is something very important in the "how" of the question.
But the true origin of the question is "you," because if it weren't for a "you," the question would be redundant. So, the human being has more agency than we might at first think. And "agency" has its roots in "effective," "powerful," "to do" and --- "set in motion."
The 15-minute story ought not be Warhol's prediction about fame, which is possibly coming true for many on Facebook. But something of more content - that clearly leaves out other stories that could be just as interesting.

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