17 October 2019

What makes our destiny?

What makes our destiny?

This is one of the oldest questions in human thinking. What is more, the question has survived the test of time hence why we still ask the question even in the 21st century. Destiny belongs to a set of concepts that include: fate, fatalism, fortune, predeterminism, one’s lot, and so on.

The underlying issue is the fact that we believe we have a free will and the ability to shape our life, and yet what we propose in our life does not always come true. Some might even say hardly comes true at all. Hence this conflict between what we want and wish for ourselves and what actually happens requires an explanation.

I will argue that the traditional idea of destiny is a mental idea we have of us in our life. Basically there is no destiny other than our idea of destiny. The problem is of course, and as always, when such subjective ideas are exploited by unscrupulous charlatans for their own ends. Be they organised religions or fortune tellers.

These terms have one problem: they refer to events in the future which have not yet happened. And when we experience our life we think that what happened was done by some other force since our experience is different from what we wanted, planned and desires. This is creationism in a different guise. But when we plan, desire and wish what our future should be like we become victims of the future fallacy. How can we think of the future when the future hasn’t happened? In effect what the future looks like is just a mental image in our brain: a chimera, a mirage.

But this does not mean we should just let go and see what happens. On the contrary, if we do nothing, nothing will happen. The problem is that we tend to think of our future, to use a weak analogy, as a finished painting by some Goya, or Rembrandt or Renoir. When in reality the most we can do when we think of our future is to think in terms of rough drafts: broad lines and meandering curves.

The difference between us and the masters is that the masters know what comes next after the draft. Many of us are not well informed of what it takes to reach our desires.  This is not necessarily our fault, maybe the people in our surroundings cannot help us or did not want to help us. But what is clear is that, if we sketch on our canvas an outline of sunflowers, we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t end up with a bunch of red roses.

Our surroundings do determine what happens to us; in the same way our health and mental states determine our future. In many cases, many of us shouldn’t start our life from where we are or from where we did. In other words determinism is not all dead yet. But this does not mean that we cannot change some events and when things go wrong it does not mean we cannot get back on the rails. It just that, sometimes we arrive somewhere else than where we originally wanted to go; something like a low cost flight in winter.

To conclude, many times our destiny sucks, but sometimes our destiny is not as bad as it could be.

Best Lawrence

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