Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Fate Factor

The Spear is occasionally struck by the inclination of some people to assign certain events to ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’.  Although applicable to many areas of our lives, this tendency particularly attracts The Spear’s attention when observing how people consider the chance ways that they meet potential partners.

“It was destiny.”  “We were meant to be.”  “What were the chances?”  “God wanted us to be together.” Etc, etc.

The Spear will be one of the first to admit that he doesn’t know if there is some God-like intelligence secretly pulling the strings of the universe from within or without, in the present or the past or the future or outside of time.  That, at least, is beyond his comprehension.

He will however advocate at least considering the possibility that, even if the universe does subscribe to determinism, it may be of a meaningless and irrational form, i.e. just because something had to happen does not necessarily mean that it had to happen for a reason.

Needless to say, this particular viewpoint is far from romantic.

The belief that ‘everything happens for a reason’ does not go far enough for The Spear’s liking - it leaves him wanting to know what the reason is.  Assumedly it would be of comfort to those who hold this belief if the reason turned out to be the eventual fulfilment of their own happiness.  And if you’re going to subscribe to rational fatalism, it makes sense to believe you’re going to come out on top.

Is there anybody who believes that everything happens with the ultimate aim of screwing them over, or that everything happens to ensure the happiness of one’s enemies?  God is always on your side.  Fate is always in your favour.  Destiny is always your friend.  Perhaps it sometimes has odd ways of showing it, but only to ensure your eventual success.  Right?

So when two people who like each other meet in seemingly chancy fashion, is it wrong for one or both to assign a higher meaning to the relationship?  The Spear would say it is wrong only so far as people are prone NOT to assign the same meaning to seemingly less chancy encounters.

Meeting someone in a bar or at a bus-stop has a far higher fate factor than say, meeting someone through internet dating or being set up with someone though friends.  You could meet exactly the same person in each scenario, but alas, it is much harder to prescribe fatalistic proportions to situations where fate has seemingly been given a helping hand.  The belief that it is the universe who has determined the meeting - and not our mere selves - carries much more authority.

But are we not agents of the universe?  Why is it that our actions should be any less rationally determined than chance?  Just because we think we are in control does not necessarily mean that we are.  Who is to say our actions are not really ours, but instead the will of the supposed unknowable universal power that is making everything happen for a reason?

From such a viewpoint, there is no difference between chancy and ‘forced’ meetings – they are all fatalistic. 

Apart from perhaps some occasional disappointment, there is no reason not to believe that the universe is programmed to ensure your eventual happiness.  It offers a sense of hope, that no matter how bad things may be, they will eventually get better.  But at the same time, it is worth remembering that there is nothing wrong with taking action to give fate a helping hand sometimes... It may have been your destiny to help yourself achieve happiness.

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