Yuanfen or Destiny Without Fate

“I love you,” he said. “You’ll understand it one day.”

She laughed. She didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t as clear to her as it was to him. She could never understand how some people seemed so sure of matters of the heart.

He knew, though. He knew that even though they were to part ways soon, he would return to her, the pillar of strength. He would return, battle-scarred and broken, and she would nurse him back to life. She would stand over him and stare, her hand resting on his thumping chest and worry resting on her troubled brow. He would look up at her with dry, parched lips and she would raise a mason jar of smoke, hope, and poetry to his mouth. He would drink deeply, and as his head fell to the pillow, he would see the road behind him and the smoldering ruins in the distance. He would be assured that he was home, that his oasis had been with her, his muse, the whole time. Just as he thought, those many years ago when he thought those many years ago.

He was wrong about one thing, however. She never did understand. She was always a tad unsure that it would last. Until their hair turned gray and their eyes turned pale, she had her doubts.

© Jacob A. Smith and An Un-American Classic 2013.

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33 Responses to “Yuanfen or Destiny Without Fate”


  1. 1 vandammetienne January 23, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Is that from a book you’re writing or is it already published ?

  2. 2 andreabadgley January 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Wow. I am humbled by your ability to say so much, to capture the essence of love, in all of its surety and doubt, in so few words. Well done.

  3. 3 SocietyRed January 23, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Jacob,
    This is really beautiful.
    So glad you got Pressed so I didn’t miss it.
    I look forward to more of your work.
    Congrats!
    Red

  4. 4 parneaus January 23, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Beautifully written. I like this alot.

  5. 5 dodkipod January 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    “Just as he thought, those many years ago when he thought those many years ago.” Think this sentence you typed the same thing twice by accident. But very beautiful :-) brought a tear to my eye.

  6. 7 surfskiesp January 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Great post! I am following you now! My name is Carlos, if you ever want to know about Ocean Paddling news follow us back. Cheers!

  7. 8 Charles Burk January 23, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I enjoyed this, great style, nice imagery. Are you a fan of Hemingway?

  8. 10 5thingstodotoday January 23, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I really like your blog and would love you to feature on mine, http://www.5thingstodotoday.com. All you have to do is write five suggestions along with a link back to your site. Please check out the blog and see the sort of things people have written about.

  9. 13 Janet Williams January 23, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I’m intrigued as to why you chose to use a Chinese expression 缘分 (yuanfen) as the title. Fate or chance may bring about a relationship, but sometimes, people may have 缘 (yuan) but somehow sadly 分 (fen) is missing, therefore a relationship may fail in heartache. I’d try to find out more from your other posts. All the best to you.

    • 14 Jake Smith January 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Yuanfen or fate without destiny is what the man in the story is disputing. The woman has told him that she was unsure that it was meant to be. The man is saying that they indeed do have “fen.”

      • 15 Janet Williams January 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm

        Thank you. Yuanfen 缘分 is one of the most difficult Chinese concepts (possibly from Buddhism) to translate across languages. It’s abstract. One’s destination possibly comes from the unknown being higher than the humble human being. In life, having yuan is never enough to bind a relationship.

      • 16 Jake Smith January 23, 2013 at 4:05 pm

        Exactly. The English language just doesn’t have quite enough words sometimes.

  10. 17 fictionsoflife January 23, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Great work here. The contrast between surety and uncertainty is sublime. The names don’t matter, nor do their exact origins. What matters is this happens to people everyday, in every walk of life — whether uncertainty in love, or in life. This is prosaic as it is poetic. Pure artistry.
    Thank you for the lovely read. I find myself in both characters.

  11. 18 sarahfied January 23, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    if its part of a story you’re writing, i would love to read it :)

  12. 19 Colin January 23, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    “Destiny without fate” reminds me of something I’ve done some work on: “What are the obligations of a just Creator to his creations?” This led me to gnostic Christianity’s concept of reincarnation (see John 9:1-3 — is there any doubt Jesus and the disciples thought the blind man might have been reincarnated? How could he be punished for his sins by being born blind any other way?). This led me to a new instance of “destiny without fate.” In a free will universe, you don’t allow predestination, So how do you get to be “destined” to belong with someone? And the answer is, “casting call on the Other Side in between incarnations.” Free will rules. You get freedom of contract. But if you contract to come back with Sue or Fred and live fifty years with him or her, the courts of heaven can specifically enforce that contract, and you are destined even though you have free will

  13. 20 DMCgirl January 23, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Definitely a fuel for thought :) i love it!

  14. 21 Toner Laser January 24, 2013 at 4:41 am

    What a wonderful post!! Thanks so much for sharing it!

  15. 22 jasonoruairc January 24, 2013 at 6:28 am

    Please don’t change that repetitive line: “Just as he thought, those many years ago when he thought those many years ago.”; it’s great. I really like the compact, dense nature of the piece. It’s the first of yours I have read but it won’t be the last. I write short ‘snapshots’ of everyday life in Belfast, Ireland, if you’re interested – different remit, but compact and bijou all the same: http://vernacularisms.com

  16. 24 Bubba & Mama January 24, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    This sounds similar to the Chinese classic romance story *butterfly lovers and Dream of the Red Chamber* where 缘分 is plays a huge part of the plot.
    I have to say, you wrote it really well and I hope to find you’ll publish a classic romance novel soon for a die hard romantic like me and book sales could do better than 50 shades ;)

  17. 25 srinivas23051989 January 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Please tell me this is the complete piece. It would be tough indeed to do justice to this beautifuuly written piece once it is put in some novel. Though there is always the hope that the rest of it ( if there is ) is as beautiful as this :) Cheers

  18. 29 KOKAY January 25, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Beautiful! :)

  19. 30 daisyvelven January 26, 2013 at 3:01 am

    Was drawn to the title of this post, as a foreign student in China right now, I hear my Chinese friends mention ‘yuanfen’ every now and then. It came as a surprise to read such a touching story, which I think poses a lot of questions as to how this particular yuanfen came about. Thank you.

  20. 31 josh607 January 27, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Really liked this, it was very powerful with very few words. I write short stories on my blog feel free to check them out I’m always looking for fellow writers.

  21. 32 Freshi Ice Sticks February 2, 2013 at 10:36 am

    congratulations on featured in Freshly pressed.

  22. 33 Himanshu February 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    What a wonderful piece of writing. Congratulations and many more to come!


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© Jacob A. Smith and An Un-American Classic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacob A. Smith and An Un-American Classic with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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