The western mind pits fate against free will as if it is one or the other. Fate strips all choice out of the equation and turns our lives into cogs in a great wheel, replaceable parts in the mechanics of life. Free will burdens us with ultimate responsibility for our lives even when we clearly are at the mercy of forces beyond our control. This sets up a false dichotomy and the truth lies somewhere between the two. We make choices and we are also nudged along our path by greater forces. Sometimes the pendulum swings more to the tide of external forces and sometimes more to the shoulders of choice. Both are present in all situations to some degree.
Instead of fate, I prefer the word "Providence," which is rarely used these days. Fate takes the hard line and stakes its claim on a past to future logic that whatever happens had to happen and was predetermined. Fate feeds on pessimism, resentment, resignation, and acceptance. Providence comes from the Latin roots meaning "to see ahead," as if to have foresight and includes guidance from life or God. Providence shifts attention to the future and how this offers choices in the present. Providence thrives on optimism, faith, attentiveness (to signs), and taking advantage of opportunities.
Here is my illogical conclusion: All that has happened before was fated and had to happen the way it happened. Providence is in charge of all that is yet to happen, which is subject to probability and changeable given our choices. We each have a kind of destiny, something we are truly meant to do. Providence guides you with your own foresight, and from life or spirit or God (what ever fits for you) toward your destiny despite your fate. Fate dictates that all is determined and requires resignation; Providence offers spiritual guidance and requires faith; Destiny provides a path for what you are meant to do and requires your full engagement. So here's a simple formula for self actualization: Rise above your fate, accept the guidance of providence, and follow your destiny.
Fate and free will was the original draft of the third dynamic dilemma from my upcoming book, The Work Of Being Yourself, Navigating The Five Dynamic Dilemmas of Life. I have since revised the section re-titling it "fight and flow." Keep posted for the release date!
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Fate or free will, where do you stand?
To what degree do you think you are in charge of your life?
How do you account for the impact of greater forces?
Please share your thoughts and comments below.
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