Hazard, Accident or Destiny?

Reflections from the philosophy of Lemmy and John Fowles

I was on my way to the local supermarket the other day, running the covid19 gauntlet as it were, and had Motorhead’s last studio album playing on the car’s creaking sound system. One track came up called ‘Brotherhood of man’, which is an unusually sinister song by the merchants of speed metal. It struck me that this tune could have been sung by a particular character who features in the current epic fantasy novel I’m writing (jointly with my co-writer Andy Naisbitt.) The character is a repto-humanoid and, shall we say, he’s a bit extreme – far right politics, thinks genocide is a good thing etc. I could just imagine him singing – or perhaps growling – the track, riding the wave of his own personal megalomania.

Anyhow, that’s not really what I want to talk about. It’s more the Lemmy reference. The previous night I’d been watching a documentary about Motorhead. Now for those of you who are not familiar with this band, they are the three desperados (more latterly four) who brought us such great works as Overkill, Bomber and Ace of Spades. The founding member is Lemmy Kilmister, who also takes care of lead vocals and bass. His calling cards are a gravelly voice, a Rickenbacker bass played like a six-string guitar and his stage persona, standing there with his microphone tilted downwards. Lemmy was kicked out of his former band, Hawkwind, for carrying drugs when trying to pass across the Canadian border while on a world tour. (You can read about it in Lemmy’s autobiography — ‘White Line Fever.’) Without this event occurring, Motorhead would never have been born, and it is this aspect that he was being asked about in the interview I watched. The question was posed, ‘To what do you attribute your success?’ Lemmy could have spouted on about never giving up, or believing in yourself, or even, ‘It was my destiny.’ Instead, he basically said, ‘It was all an accident.’ A surprising response, you might think. It’s certainly a refreshing one.

In another interview, he said, “It’s all random, everything is random. We like to put our patterns on things, but nature never wrote a straight line. Where are the Romans now and their fabulous buildings? Wrecks overgrown by nature.” Despite appearances, Lemmy was a great philosopher who expressed himself in simple words, (how could anyone doubt this when he’s probably the only person to ever include the word ‘parallelogram’ in his lyrics?)

What do you think about the direction your life is heading in? Do you think your fate is written in the stars or does the reality life’s randomness shape your thinking?

Lemmy hasn’t been the only one to ponder this. The great novelist, John Fowles used the theme of ‘hazard’ in a number of his writings, most notably, ‘The Magus.’ The term is introduced by one of its main characters, Conchis. He says, ‘There is no plan. All is hazard. And the only thing that will preserve us is ourselves.’

So how does this relate to me and my writing? I guess I pondered this when thinking about my so called ‘success’. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve published ten books now and narrated over fifteen audio books. On top of this I’ve been sending blog articles like this out into the ether for four years or more. Yet my monetary success is, at best, break even in its status. So, why carry on if I’m not making serious money like some authors? I sometimes get locked into thinking, ‘If only I could get a break for once.’

If I thought simply in terms of how bad the universe has treated me in this respect, then I’d end up wallowing in a quagmire of self-pity. On the other hand, ‘hazard’ has dealt me a hand that would be envious by most people’s standards: I get the time to write every day (if I want to), I don’t have to worry about making money from it because I’ve still got meals on the table and a roof over my head, I never want for inspiration or new ideas — there seems to be a bountiful supply of them. I also have a small but grateful audience who regularly give me positive notes of encouragement (which mean so much, by the way.) It’s also relieving for one with my personal philosophy that there isn’t some grand master plan dictated by fates or gods. I may never be a success in monetary terms, but creating stories is the ‘end’ and not ‘the means.’ And for this I should be grateful.


  1. Kevin says:

    I remember being a freshman first semester in college when my first professor raised the question ‘what is success,’ for our first essay. The notion it isn’t necessarily money, which was a stark contrast to what my parents believe, has stuck with me.

    1. Tom Adams says:

      We often remember the lessons learned at an early age, Kevin.

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