Writers ponder life and then try “Deus ex machina” is a literary term. I to make sense of it by writing about it. Art see eyes glazing over, but bear with me. Translat- imitating life. I thought about that while ed literally as “God from the machine”, it’s a device writing this column and it occurred to me conceived to solve sticky points and requires that life also imitates art. Apparently this a completely unexpected and largely implausible occurred to Oscar Wilde as well, who wrote, circumstance. It’s not used often and it’s seldom “Life imitates art far more than art imitates successful, going all the way back to , life.” A circular puzzle and one that can get whose use of it was roundly criticized. The film away from you pretty quickly if you follow it “” applied it to great effect when a prob- down the rabbit hole. lematic was gobbled up by an alligator It does seem, however, that deus that comes out of nowhere. Since “Adaptation” is ex machina might have been a a tongue in cheek film about writing, this is one developed to help us make sense out of time it worked in a double entendre sort of way. the indiscriminate nature of life. How nice Greek theater used a crane (machina) to lower ac- would it be to have a crane poised overhead tors portraying gods (deus) sent to get a plot back to drop angels down to halt the inevitable - on track. to stop the fatal accident, the slyly encroach- And therein lies the problem. ing cancer, the heart attack that hits as you and readers expect writers to have better control read your morning newspaper. over the plot than to send in alligators, cranes and So last year at this time I was what-have-you to settle a that should have looking forward to fall as I always do. Cool- a much more believable progression to resolution. er weather, Halloween, fall colors, Thanks- Deus ex machine is considered lazy, a far too ran- giving, happy gatherings with friends and dom and insupportable way to wrap up conflict. family. I’m looking forward to all of that this We want neater endings, preferably with meaning year, too. None of the people who left my in- and and in a way that makes sense – show- ner circle would want it any other way. It’s ing us life as we want it to be. my belief we are put here to learn and love The thing is, real life is all too often an and grow. But this is also a time of year for unapologetic exercise in deus ex machina. reflection and there will be plenty of that, In less than one year ago this time – my too, for me and many others. If the past year favorite time of year, I might add – I lost no less taught anything, it’s not to get complacent. than six close friends and family. All but one of the Expect the unexpected. deaths were the essence of deus ex machina. Car Watch out for the alligator. wrecks, a heart attack, cancer so fast moving even I might even toss the deus into doctors’ heads were spinning. All of them came the machina of my current writing project. out of nowhere. All of them were, in their own Why not? Life and art do imitate each oth- way, as implausible as that alligator in Adaptation. er. Sometimes they overlap, bleed into each If they had been plot points, they would have been other a little too seamlessly. God from the dismissed as all too convenient. Except this was machine. real life. I still can’t quite wrap my head around any God’s will be done. of them and I wonder how life can be so arbitrary For Carol and Nancy and Carl. while accepting that it is.

34 Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country FALL 2015