The Free Will of Fate

“All I have are the choices I make…” –David Norris, Adjustment Bureau

Do we control the path our life takes? History’s greatest philosophers dedicated there lives to answering these questions. Most of the world’s major religions attempt to address this in some form. Many of our greatest literature deals with trying to understand the nature of our destiny.  Are we truly the captains of our fate or are we merely at the will of the hands of kismet?

For many of us, believing we have control over the path our life ultimately takes is not only logical, but reassuring. We make a multitude of decisions every day that shape our existence. We choose what we eat, where we shop, who we associate with, etc. Knowing this, it seems only natural for fate to reside in our hands. Furthermore, knowing that no matter what happens to us we have the ability to change our direction creates an inner peace not easily found in the hectic world of today. For some, however,  this idea just doesn’t add up.

The concept of fate and destiny invades every aspect of life. Countless films and books are dedicated to the notion we all have a soulmate and will live happily ever after.  The concept of predestination is a belief held by many proponents of Christianity. One of life’s biggest questions involves finding one’s purpose. For all of these reasons and more many of us hold some faith in the idea existence is governed by the winds of fate.

So which  holds the truth? Are we bound by forces beyond our control, or do we govern the outcomes of our life? Some would argue our ability to make decisions is proof that we have complete free will. Others would point to the many coincidences in life as proof of how little control we actually have. However, holding either of these beliefs to be absolute is wrought with potential peril.

If we are truly in control of everything that happens in our lives, how do we deal with forces beyond our control. For example, how do we deal with losing a loved one. Getting caught in a traffic jam, that cause us to miss a job interview. If we truly control our destiny, how do we deal with the many tragedies that happen in our life we are powerless to prevent? Inversely, how do we explain the phenomenon of luck? Why are some people blessed with wealth while others are born into poverty? All questions not easily answered if we are the true arbiters of everything that happens in our life.

Other the other hand, believing everything is beyond on our control is filled with similar pitfalls. Why make any decisions, if everything is already decided? Why bother planning for the future, if its path is preordained. In fact, we might as well do whatever we want, since its all leading to a predetermined end. We can pollute the planet, ignore our health, use up all the resources we want, because at the end of the day our choices really don’t matter. We are merely pawns moving toward an inevitable conclusion.

Like many other things in life, extreme adherence to either of these concepts does not seem to be a wise choice. The world and our place in it is far too complex to be completely bent to our will. However, the decisions we make in our life affect not only our future, but the future of those around us. Perhaps everything has already been determined, but even if this is true, our decisions remain our own. No amount of fate and destiny will every change this. True success is found in the ability to accept what we cannot control, while taking responsibility for what we can.

Destiny is what happens when decision and chance converge.

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