A few days ago, Bogdan brought up destiny in one of his posts, which got me thinking more about this notion. It often seems, or at least is presented as, mysterious. But on reflection, the basic concept itself was fairly straightforward. One’s destin-y is one’s eventual destin-ation. It’s where you’ll arrive, the place you’ll end up at. Except, of course, it may not literally be a place. More likely, a destiny is something you’ll do, something you’ll be, or something that will happen to you. You’re destined for it, moving toward it somehow, though most likely not as the crow flies…
In mulling this over, a couple differences in how people can think about destiny showed up. For one, destiny may be thought of as something determined and arranged by powerful beings or at least intentional, thinking forces. The Fates, weaving the destinies of mortals, offer an ancient and poetic visoin of this, while the notion of God’s plan is commonplace today. On the other hand, one’s destiny can be seen as an eventual outcome not intended by any mind or mind-like force, yet still determined in advance by natural laws of causation.
Both those views assume that one’s destiny is fully set in advance. But what of those who believe there to be randomness in the course of events? Epicureans held to this view, and present-day physics — or at any rate, common interpretations of its mathematics — suggest the same.
Again, what about the choices made by mortals? If these are not determined in advance, then here too, destiny would not be set in advance. And it would change, as Bogdan suggested in his post, “our destiny changes based on every decision we make.”
But doesn’t destiny need to be fully set in advance? I think that’s the most common way of thinking about it. And, I suppose a destiny that could be foretold would need to be already set. But even if your destination is yet to be determined — whether by randomness or not-yet-decided choices — you’ll still have one, and only one. It just isn’t fully fixed in place yet… Right?
Howsoever one imagines destiny — as predetermined by powerful godlike beings, by non-intentional causal forces, or as partially indeterminate until the end thanks to randomness and/or the choices of mortals — it seems one’s destiny can’t be known in advance. This, I think, is what is most truly, deeply mysterious about it. (I’m setting aside, of course, the occasional prophetic revealing of a destiny, which perhaps this occurs only in literature and is, in any case, uncommon.)
Somehow, this seems of great importance: that we do not and cannot know our destiny.
It also makes one wonder:
Is it possible then to follow — or not to follow — one’s destiny?
How can you follow it if you can’t know what the destination is?
And how could you help but follow it if it is, by definition and perhaps predetermination, the place you’ll end up at?
Can one thus meaningfully defy or follow fate?
I’ll leave the matter there for now. Very interested to hear your thoughts or experiences!
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