Some thoughts on Fate

I’m taking a stab at a “Hump Day ‘Hmm,'” a midweek reflection/writing exercise originated by Julie Pippert at Using My Words. This topic was actually the prompt for April 9 – as you might guess, the idea is for these to be written and/or posted on Wednesdays – but I’m just getting to it. Hopefully that’s OK…

(T)his week’s Hump Day Hmm topic was inspired by Andrea of garden of nna mmoy. She asked that we discuss fate—we have discussed fate from a couple of angles already but it’s been a while (one last April, as it happens! Also in June of last year, and maybe another time I don’t recall…) and there are so many angles to fate.

Consider these questions: does the universe (God) prescribe an order? do things happen sometimes too coincidentally to be coincidental? is there a design? how is it that sometimes things come to us, just when we need them most? Tell a story, discuss theory…whatever you’d like.

The way I define Fate makes it a concept I really don’t want to believe in.

I think that “fate” often seems to provide an out for people to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and the paths of their lives. Interestingly enough, though, it doesn’t seem to stop them from taking credit for things they really didn’t completely direct in the first place. The sense that every action and every outcome is pre-ordained – “meant to be,” or not – takes away a sense of control; but on the other hand, I suspect that for some people that surrender may in itself be rather freeing.

I think it’s much easier to see patterns in events after the fact, and with that hindsight, one can construct a progress from one point to another that seems to illustrate that “everything happens for a reason.” Looking back, it can be fairly obvious that you wouldn’t have gotten to a certain place in your life if some other condition hadn’t been met first, and to ascribe some sort of cosmic plan to all of it. For example, I would never have met my second husband if I hadn’t moved to California after my first marriage ended, so in a way the first thing did have to happen in order for the next one to occur, but I’m not really all that sure of the necessity of my first marriage’s ending to begin with.

As you might guess from the title of this blog, I’m mostly a believer in randomness and coincidence. I believe that actions may be chosen, and they do (or at least should) have consequences. I think plenty of things in life just happen, though – they’re not necessarily anyone’s fault, and sometimes they’re just plain not necessary. I think that one’s perspective after the fact might indeed make events seem to fit together in a certain way – and if that’s a useful view, then take it. For me, though, it’s not especially meaningful to apply “meaning.” I don’t really think that “hindsight is 20-20,” either, for that matter – it’s a view from another angle, and usually from a place where one has more information that one did at the time, so it seems clearer, but it’s really just different.

This prompt included certain specific questions, and I would answer them as follows:

  • Does the universe (God) prescribe an order? To my way of thinking, no. I think we’d like it to; especially if we’re oriented toward storytelling (reading, writing, film-making, etc.), we’re inclined to look for a narrative. We want to make order out of apparent chaos. But that comes from us, and not an external directive.
  • Do things happen sometimes too coincidentally to be coincidental? Is there a design? Again, I’d have to say that I don’t think so.
  • How is it that sometimes things come to us, just when we need them most? I think knowing what we need makes us more alert and aware, and therefore we’re better able to recognize what we need when it comes along at the right time.

My title for this post is a play on a few of Anne Lamott’s books – but Faith and Fate are different things to me. I don’t have faith in Fate. I think one can have faith without believing in Fate. But that’s what I think – what about you?

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  1. I totally agree with you!! My friend just introduced me to Anne Lamott, btw, and I loved Operating Instructions. But I still don’t buy into any kind of theories that could be summed up as things happening for a reason.

  2. April – My husband does believe in “things happen for a reason,” and if it works for him, that’s fine. We don’t have to agree on everything. 🙂

    It’s great that you’ve discovered Anne Lamott. Operating Instructions is one of her few books that I haven’t read (yet), but you must read Bird by Bird.

  3. I’m with you. I think some people look at it this way sometimes when things are going bad for them. That way it it gives them something to look forward to: “If this bad thing happened now, something good must be coming soon.” Just my thoughts on the subject.

  4. Mike – I think you’re right about that. You really don’t hear people say that to get perspective when good stuff happens, do you?