By Jimmy Warden
The fickleness of fate
The idea of fate is very fickle. First of all, it’s just an idea. It is not tangible. It is not measurable. Second of all, there are a couple of different viewpoints that I’ve come across during my lifetime, and they vary tremendously from each other. Some people believe that fate is predetermined, others believe that we determine our own fate. Thirdly, fate is an idea that either binds people together, or divides them apart. People often bind together when they share the same views, and are often divided when they don’t. No matter what our stance is on the concept, it might be worthwhile to rethink our stance.
What is fate?
I like to define fate as the precursing force of an outcome. I define it as a force because of the various viewpoints. One viewpoint suggests that a force such as God or The Universe is what determines the outcomes in our lives. Another viewpoint believes that we determine our own fate because we make the decisions that lead to the outcomes in our lives.
The predetermined take
Team predetermined has the idea that our fate will turn out the way God or the universe intended it to turn out, no matter what decisions we make in life. They believe that everyone has a predetermined destination from the day they were born, until the day that they die, and the decisions we make are the roadmap to that destination. They also believe that the obstacles in our lives are always put there for a reason and the way we handle those obstacles are reflections of what God or the universe wanted us to do.
For example, if someone were to get into a car accident, they would believe that it happened for a reason. Maybe it made them count their blessings; maybe it made them learn a lesson. Regardless of the stance on a blessing or a lesson, there is a purpose for the event. A justification.
At its core, the idea that fate is predetermined also suggests that there is no free will. Free will in this case being the ability to make our own decisions based on our own volition. If we take it back to the car accident example, the individual who thinks fate is predetermined might say: “God wanted this to happen to me” or “The Universe wanted this to happen to me”.
However, there are some interesting counterarguments to the predetermined take. First, there are really shitty things that happen to really amazing people, which makes it hard to believe that there is a silver lining within every situation. Just because the tragedy was “meant to be”, it doesn’t justify the harmful outcome. Another counterargument is that there isn’t always a reason behind everything happens. Sure, in the literal sense, everything does happen for a reason, but some things just happen for the sole reason of happening. There isn’t always a deeper, intellectual, nugget of wisdom attached to every occurence in our lives.
Determine your own fate
On the opposite side of predetermined fate is team determine your own fate. Team determine your own fate is prefaced on our own free will. It is prefaced on the decisions we make. It suggests that we make our own conscious decisions of our own volition. Therefore, whatever happens to us is our own personal responsibility.
This stance is rooted in rationality. It is basing itself in control. It is the idea that we are in control of our lives, and if we don’t like our life, we can change it. We don’t have to wait around for a sign from God or The Universe, we can just take the bull by the horns and steer it in the direction we want to, as best as we can. Our decisions are what direct us. So if our life goes south, it is because of our decisions. We put ourselves in the challenging position that we find ourselves in.
If we bring it back to the example of the car accident, there could’ve been uncontrollable circumstances that were the reason for the accident, but those that believe that we determine our fate will blame it on the fact that we chose to drive that day.
Some counterarguments to determining your own fate is the uncontrollable and the unexplainable. There are a lot of moments in our life that we cannot control, so we don’t always have control of life’s outcomes. If we continue to use the example of the car accident, perhaps the reason why the accident occurred is the fault of the other driver. Maybe we stopped in traffic when we needed to, but the person behind us didn’t, and they rear end us as a result. This event is not determined by us because we cannot control what others do, even though it may have an effect on us.
The unexplainable is the moments that we feel awe. It’s hard to believe that we’re the sole producers of energy and vibrations that we experience. From the sounds and voices we hear, the textures that we feel, the foods that we test, the moments we live, we have times in our lives that we feel connected to something larger than us. We feel connected to others, spiritually and emotionally. These connections can range from the people that we meet, to the places we go, and the things that we do.
Have you ever had what felt like an out of body experience while with someone you love, in a place you cherish, or doing something you’re passionate about? That’s the connection that I’m talking about!
Considering the contrasts of all three viewpoints, it’s hard for people to come to agreements on the topic of fate. These contrasts can create viewpoints that are so strong that it breaks bonds between family members, intimate partners, friends, and acquaintances. The argument often boils down to a party wanting to be ‘right’ so bad, that they’ll go to any means to accomplish that. They’ll tear apart the other person’s argument about their stance, then insult their intelligence or their character for having that viewpoint. It’s that desire that’s divisive.
For example, an argument between team predetermined and team determine your own fate might sound like: “God (or The Universe) doesn’t determine our fate because we’re the ones that make our own decisions; there isn’t a higher power dictating my life, and if some greater force was determining outcomes, why do awful things happen to great people?” with the counterargument being “Everything happens for a reason. The events in our lives are always meant to help us grow as people. Also, if we always influence life’s outcomes, then tell me how you would explain the events that you can’t control?”
Rethinking our stance
Even though we may have set up to stay in the camp that we’re in, it could be useful to rethink our stance. For example, those that believe that fate is predetermined by God or The Universe could think about how the horrors of their personal life are simply that, and that there doesn’t need to be any reasoning behind the event other than it happened. This could release any unneeded suffering that would come from trying to figure out why God or The Universe allowed such a horrible thing to happen. For those that believe that we determine our own fate, it might be helpful to consider that we can’t control for everything and there are times when something happens to us that is not our fault. This could also release unnecessary suffering that comes from over-analyzing a situation where we think we could have acted differently, even though the negative occurrence was not our fault.
Whatever our stance may be, we can always learn a little something from either side of this argument. When we do this, we could actually live with a bit less angst. We won’t have a tunnel view of why events happen in our lives. Instead, our view will be more whole. It just takes a bit of willingness to open our perspective to something different.