. . .

Odete Martins Bigote

“Man proposes, but God disposes.”
Thomas A. Kempis

It was winter in New York. I was working for a major corporation on Wall St. I found it necessary to take a week off. I went to the Virgin Islands to swim in the warm water of the Caribbean sea.

I choose to stay in a small, quiet and inexpensive hotel by the ocean away from the crowds and shopping areas. My room was on the first floor, just a few feet away from the waves. There was a restaurant right by room which was very convenient: I could eat, sleep and swim all day without having to travel. I also thought that the chances to meet anyone I knew in that environment were none. There would be no one to bother me, and certainly no Wall St. executives would come to the hotel.

I was looking forward to have my first shrimp cocktail. As soon as I arrived, I dropped my suitcase somewhere in my room, dropped my winter clothes, put on my bathing suit and rushed to the restaurant.

I was free, at last, unfortunately only for a week.

“The greatest power God gave us is the power to choose.
We have the opportunity to choose whether we are going to act
or procrastinate, believe or doubt, pray or curse, help or heal.
We also choose whether we are going to be happy or whether
we’re going to be sad.”
Lou Holtz,1989

For me, one of the greatest earthly pleasures is to have a good meal in a restaurant by the ocean: this is exactly what was happening. As I was savoring a shrimp cocktail, and anxiously waiting for the broiled lobster, I noticed a man and a woman had arrived and sat at the bar. I was so involved with my meal that I did not look at them but, somehow, I noticed the man was persistently looking at me. When I decided to look at them, I gave them a smile and went back to eating my shrimp.

It took me a while to realize that I knew the man. But, by that time, he got up from his seat, came around, sat next to me, shook my hand and said, nervously:
“Odete, I never expected to meet you here. As a matter of fact, I told my friend not to worry; I was choosing a hotel where I was sure I would meet no one I knew.”

“Well, well, Willie,” said I,” I’m surprised to meet you here, too.”

Since I was not sure if his female companion knew he was married, I communicated with him psychically, “Willie, Willie, what are you doing with your life? This is not your wife.” Almost instantly, he introduced me to his female companion who was also very nervous.

“I’m having lots of problems with my marriage,” said Willie, “My Wall St. job is a mess. But I’m free to choose and ready to make changes. I really needed a break. My family knows nothing about my whereabouts. Please, Odete, don’t tell my wife. If you do, you will cause great problems in our family.”

Willie did not have to worry about our encounter. I told him I had not spoken to his wife for a long time, and had no intention of calling her.

“Take away free will and there
remains nothing to be saved.
…Salvation is given by God alone,
and it is given only to
free-will; even as it cannot be
wrought without the consent
of the receiver it cannot be wrought without
the grace of the giver.”
St. Bernard, Treatise
Concerning Grace and
Free Will, c. 1128

Classic Indian teachings mention that our lives are 75% predetermined by our past, and 25% free will. The thought of predetermination makes a lot of people angry and uncomfortable. They think that God has completely taken over their lives: they find it hard to take responsibility for their actions; past, present and future.


If we do not use our free will, the past will continue to rule us. We may not even be aware of the damage we are doing to ourselves. Plato, in the Republic, Book X (620) refers to each soul passing “without looking back under the Throne of Necessity.”

Apparently, it is necessary for all of us to come to earth to correct “something.”

What could it be that needs correction besides hate, fear, anger towards our neighbors, family, friends, enemies? What could it be that everyone fears, but most of us do not have the courage to face?

Could it be that the more we think civilization advances, the more we try to run away from the thought of God; a unified energy that exists within all of us? Could it be that it is necessary for us to come to earth in order to learn to return, and therefore save ourselves?


Willie, like all of us, was aware of his power to choose, but he was not aware of the real reasons, as well as, the necessity to choose. This is the great mystery of life on this planet. This is also what makes life interesting.

All of us try to run away, in order to find our way. We are in need of correcting “something,” but we do not know “what”. We are all in need of going “somewhere” but we do not know exactly “where.”

I found out, years later, that Willie never separated from his wife, and was apparently still married to her. It is true, then, “that man proposes, but God disposes.”

Willie and I will always wonder about our encounter. It was our choice to go to the Virgin Islands. Was it our choice to meet? And, if so, why?

The mystery of life goes on.

Article Written by
Odete M. Bigote
Copyright, 2004

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