Hamartia – ἁμαρτία

Hamartia –  ἁμαρτία

“The term hamartia derives from the Greek ἁμαρτία, from ἁμαρτάνειν hamartánein, which means “to miss the mark” or “to err”. It is most often associated with Greek tragedy, although it is also used in Christian theology.

Hamartia as it pertains to dramatic literature was first used by Aristotle in his Poetics. In tragedy, hamartia is commonly understood to refer to the protagonist’s error or tragic flaw that leads to a chain of plot actions culminating in a reversal of their good fortune to bad.

What qualifies as the error or flaw can include an error resulting from ignorance, an error of judgement, a flaw in character, or a wrongdoing. The spectrum of meanings has invited debate among critics and scholars and different interpretations among dramatists.”

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What did I miss, what am I missing, what did I fail to see or do?

Yesterday I was speaking a little about fate and unlike Neo most of us don’t get to be meet “The Oracle” and get freaked out by her. Yet this notion of fate is pretty common, the extent to which it is taken seriously varies, and people refer to it conversationally. “We were fated to meet. He/she is my soul mate. That fateful night.” Fate is a part of the collective consciousness. Some of us, like me, are a little fatalistic, others are more deterministic and causal. I could spend ages trying to figure out what caused my cancer or relax and say it was fated. If it comes back it is fated, so to do. The extreme of fatalism is recklessness but it can get rid of shit loads of unnecessary worrying. So maybe a healthy balance, where fate offsets fear and paranoia, is a healthy one. Some measure of fate makes life easier to bear, that is unless you are a control freak, in which case fate will have you shitting bricks.

If this notion of fate has some credence in your mind then it is possible to miss the mark, not meet your fate, at least temporarily. We can try to avoid our fate or escape it. But because it is fated then it has an ultimate inevitability. It is not if but when, at best we can delay its manifestation. But the longer we put stuff off the worse it becomes, not only do we have to face “it” but we waste large amounts of time worrying about it.

I mentioned these once in a lifetime things and there are certain circumstances which occur once in a lifetime. Should we fail at a nexus like this, that possibility will never present again. We could miss it entirely, not see it and that possibility passes swiftly out of the realms of possibility and into never again. To be dramatic it becomes a tragedy. Were we fated to miss? Or, did we not seize that which fate offered? We might have been fated to have this once in a lifetime opportunity and depending upon our readiness we can either move forward or wait for the next lifetime. If we are arrogant and lazy we might take it for granted that said opportunity will come again. Our attitude may change things, the fates may say; “look at this person, so full of themselves, let’s alter the course of his / her fate. They squandered so they no longer warrant or deserve. We can offer this to someone else.”

Now as I have perhaps illustrated it is very easy to get caught up in massive internal dialogue about fate and we can like a dog, go around and round chasing our tails. In this respect mind isn’t much use. Feeling however can often cut through dog-tail mind. As an aside do you recognise dog-tail mind?

But there is an unmistakable feeling that goes with having fucked up badly, it hits you in the gut like a punch from a heavyweight boxer. Your body knows. Maybe you do something shitty and it kicks off a whole train of events, or maybe you screw up a relationship by your behaviours and actions. Bang! There is now no going back. You have failed to see something, missed and otherwise screwed up. Dog-tail mind kicks in and you try to make sense or add post hoc justifications by the dozen. But the feeling remains, it is unmistakeable. You have missed a possibility, provided to you by fate. The exact same one may never manifest again but a thematically similar circumstance might. There is no reversibility, all you can hope for is for a second bite at a similar cherry. These gut punches from fate may, if we allow them, teach us and teach us profoundly. If we are complacent and overly fatalistic, we might say, “it was just one of those things”. The feeling however allows us to differentiate import from not so important. It is not mind, it is feeling.

We have been presented with a fateful moment and missed.

Having cued this up:

Do I recognise this description of fateful moments?

Have I had any?

At how many of them did I miss?