Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Do you believe in fate?

Pronunciation: /feɪt/
noun: The development of events outside a person’s control, regarded as predetermined by a supernatural power.
While most days in our lives are, for the most part, underwhelming and ordinary, there are moments which stand out as important, even life-changing. I think these moments, that might steer our lives in a different direction, can be reduced down to unexpected events - over which we have no control - and our own decisions, whether they are big or small. Thus the narrative of our lives is moved forward via the ebb and flow of external occurrences and personal choices.

My first, extremely cringe-worthy, idea for a tattoo, was something along the lines of 'life is a collision of choice and coincidence' stamped in typewriter lettering across my forearm. Thankfully, I never went through with it, and as embarrassing as the outcome would have been today, that sentence basically sums up my stance on fate: I don't believe in it.

A lot of people believe in fate or destiny. This means, as the dictionary definition spells out, that what I call the 'ebb and flow' (namely events and decisions) is out of our control, following a pre-existing plan that governs us all. If you follow this belief system, my question is, who decides? If it is God, then I guess my questioning stops there (otherwise I'd just be opening a can of worms on who God actually is). If it isn't God, then who or what is it that controls the course of our lives?

I really can't grasp the idea that my day-to-day decisions add up to some cosmic scheme. 'It was meant to be!' some people exclaim at an unexpected meeting with someone in a cafe. For me, that translates to: my decision to go somewhere on a particular day happened to align with the coincidence of that person being in the cafe. Out of the millions of possibilities of event and choice across the billions of people in the world, funny coincidences - and some which actually turn out to be crucial in the course of our lives - are bound to happen on a daily basis.

Is it really OK to justify accidents, disease, death, bad luck, by fate?

I understand that the idea of it can be consoling, particularly when bad things happen. Fate is one way of rationalising the chaos of life; something to grasp onto when there are just no answers. But for me, renouncing my free will, and the course of actions that I have taken which bring me to the point I'm at now, is a total fallacy, and a denial of my own responsibility. I feel it's too easy to put things down to fate, especially when there's no real basis for it. Where does it originate?

Here is somewhat of a manifesto against fate: Rather than believing I was 'destined' to be born where I was, and had all the opportunities I've had, I put it down to luck and coincidence, and am therefore extremely grateful for my circumstances. Rather than justifying all of the wrong in the world by saying it's part of some supreme plan, I acknowledge it for what it is and do what I can to change it. And rather than believing that all of the good things in my life were 'meant to be', I recognise the steps I took and decisions I made to reach them, through my own free will, and a few chance encounters.

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