Does Fate Exist?
Fate is a concept we all formed a definite opinion on at a young age. Nowadays, we rarely give its existence real consideration, instead using it as a quick explanation for situations we can’t understand, stating “That’s the way it was meant to be.” But is fate real?
Is it immutable that I should be sitting here right now, typing on this computer, with this bottle of water placed exactly as it is on this table in front of me? I can move the water bottle, or the table, into countless random positions, so it doesn’t feel like the whereabouts of these objects are carved into the mold of my destiny. However, if that bottle blocked a bullet, or got knocked over and spilled, forcing me to go buy another one at the supermarket where I subsequently met my future wife, it would suddenly acquire the magical seal of fate.
Indeed, if magical-seeming events always shaped the important circumstances in my life, I would certainly believe in fate. However, when I think of some of the seminal characteristics of who I am – my career, my relationships, and my knowledge – none of them were built from anything that smacks of a divine plan. Instead, it seems as though my life has been fashioned from my own purposeful actions. And yet, I still know that fate has played a very important role.
Fate, to me, is the part of life that you can’t control. Fate is nature: it is your physical makeup, it is your parents, it is the place you were raised. It is your unique chemical composition. Fate is also the random things that occur around you that you have no say in, like weather, and other people’s actions.
The events of our lives are dictated by a mix between fate and free will. Our core personality, health, and situation in life are things that have been fated to us. The decisions we make are our own free will. Relationships between people are a complex mixture of the two. They are one part your free will, one part the other person’s free will, and one part the interaction between those free wills. Exactly how the latter part breaks down – the way people’s attributes and actions intermingle, and all the chemical twists and turns that determine the ultimate state of the relationship – are a matter of fate.
Once we acknowledge the existence of free will, it becomes apparent that our situations in life are largely built by us, with fate giving us only a starting point and some surprises along the way. Those who wait for fate to deliver their entire lives will achieve far less than they desire. If we allow fate to act alone, our todays would transition uneventfully into our tomorrows. We’d grow up in the house we were born in, then move to the next logical place based on outside influences; we’d keep the friends we met in elementary school and acquire few new ones along the way; and we’d go into careers that befit our earliest interests without much thought of what else we’d like to explore. Very few extraordinary things would occur.
And it is precisely those extraordinary things – those acts of free will that disrupt the normal, passive flow of life – that make our time on earth exciting. These things can be small or big. They can be forcing yourself to go out to a social event that you don’t feel like going to, or challenging a deep, longstanding fear.
When I picture all the places I could have grown up in, all the people I could have met, and all the career paths I could have been driven towards, I see the interplay of fate and free will at work. There were many different lives within the fate I was dealt: an American born into the suburbs who loves childhood and words and entrepreneurship. I could have been a psychologist, a painter, an actor, maybe even a religious teacher; but instead I became who I am. I like to think that I chose a worthwhile existence.
It is important that people recognize the limitations of their fate – but more important that they recognize the vastness of the possibilities they control with their free will. While we cannot do absolutely anything, we can do so many things that we can consistently surprise ourselves, and make our lives as unique and meaningful as we wish.
Evan Bailyn is a serial entrepreneur, search engine and social media expert, celebrated author and child advocate. His company, First Page Sage, is a leader in search engine optimization and social media marketing - vastly increasing business for its clients through high SEO rankings, targeted Facebook advertising and viral videos. Evan is also the founder of the Evan Bailyn Foundation, a foundation dedicated to teaching emotional awareness to children and adults.