My Thoughts on Fate

The notion of determinism is frankly rather disturbing to me. It feels like we are mere puppets of a creator(s) or something. That something up/down there or sideways here wants Hitler to unleash his terror, that each feeling of mine, no matter how fleeting they are, are premeditated by an unknown something. I’d like to think that things are not set in stone.

The other side of the coin is absolute free will where absolutely nothing is set in stone. This means that if an Iraqi citizen should decide to become the president of USA, she can do so in spite of her (initial) nationality, never mind the fact that she has never set foot in USA before and works in an unsavory profession. I don’t think that there’s absolute free will. By virtue of our country of birth and the education received, for example, it’s almost certain or very likely that the main themes of our lives are already set in stone.

Neither the pure determinism or absolute free will view of fate makes sense to me. Therefore, my own view of fate has to be somewhere between the two extremes.
I believe that our current actions, which we have free will over, have a bearing on the future. However, our current actions are based on our past, some of which are not decided by us and some of which are consciously or unconsciously chosen by us[1].

That’s assuming one lives in a vacuum. In a society, our past, current and future actions are influenced by the past, current and future collective actions of others, events and circumstances, e.g. see how technology and Tsunami have changed the lives of others.

According to the now deceased management guru, Stephen Covey, each of us have a sphere of influence i.e. people, events, situations that we can influence if we choose to. It is in relation to matters within our sphere of influence that we should seek to be proactive, which is to make things happens. Equally, it’s advised not to be too upset over things that are outside of our sphere of influence. I think “fate” includes things i.e. people, events and situations that are outside of our control. To me, fate includes:

  • Our parents. There surely has to be a difference in one’s life, or at least the early bits of one’s life, if Donald Trump is your dad versus having say a beggar as your parent. Even in modern India, the caste system still exist. I imagine that it’s very tough to transcend the boundaries of it.
  • Our personality, including our strengths and weaknesses, and our “purpose in life” which I believe is to be one’s best self.
  • Our era and date of birth
  • Our country of birth: clearly someone who is born in Palestine and in the UK will have very different lives.
  • Our genes, which determines our propensity for certain health illnesses. I think this explains why there are certain people who have lived an extremely healthy lifestyle and yet have terminal cancer.

I used to think that we are masters of our destiny. I think that’s true, for things that are within our control. However, after considering the fixed and the uncontrollable variables in our lives, it seems to me that preordained fate accounts for more than 50% of what happens in our lives[2].

Having said the above, aHaI beII believe that it is constructive to seek to exercise our free will on matters that are within our power to change. After all, I believe that life is what you make of it and when lemons are thrown at you from the universe, it’s best to make lemonade out of them.

[1]  I subscribe to the modern view of fate whereby I believe that there is a need to raise awareness and consciousness to better exercise our free will. Most children can’t seem to remember what happened to them in their early childhood days. I think they were largely “unconscious” and don’t really exercise their free will.
[2]A quote in the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” sums this up nicely:
Sometimes we’re on a collision course, and we just don’t know it. Whether it’s by accident or by design, there’s not a thing we can do about it. A woman in Paris was on her way to go shopping, but she had forgotten her coat – went back to get it. When she had gotten her coat, the phone had rung, so she’d stopped to answer it; talked for a couple of minutes. While the woman was on the phone, Daisy was rehearsing for a performance at the Paris Opera House. And while she was rehearsing, the woman, off the phone now, had gone outside to get a taxi. Now a taxi driver had dropped off a fare earlier and had stopped to get a cup of coffee. And all the while, Daisy was rehearsing. And this cab driver, who dropped off the earlier fare; who’d stopped to get the cup of coffee, had picked up the lady who was going to shopping, and had missed getting an earlier cab. The taxi had to stop for a man crossing the street, who had left for work five minutes later than he normally did, because he forgot to set off his alarm. While that man, late for work, was crossing the street, Daisy had finished rehearsing, and was taking a shower. And while Daisy was showering, the taxi was waiting outside a boutique for the woman to pick up a package, which hadn’t been wrapped yet, because the girl who was supposed to wrap it had broken up with her boyfriend the night before, and forgot.

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