Many people in this world believe that everything that happens is determined by fate of the universe. Some may even reject this idea entirely due to their illusion of control where they overestimate their ability to control the outcomes in their lives, even when they are not in control.
I used to be this person who had clouded judgement until about two years ago. My life was great and every action I put towards my life gave me a handsome reward. I felt like the king of the world, that nothing could stop me.
Everything was going to plan until I was hit with a week of illness that wouldn’t go away. My life flipped upside down in what seemed like an instant. I had started to get depressed that everything I thought I knew about the good parts of life had betrayed me with the bad ones.
I didn’t know what to do. How does one adapt to living a new life after an uplifting event? How does one find peace in the disturbed? How does one shed their old life for a new beginning?
Much of my peace would come through reading ancient philosophy on how our predecessors handled this suffering. I’d read from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus who often said “Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well.”.
The Stoics emphasized an idea of “Amor fati” or the loose translation of “love of fate”. The Stoics believes that everything that happens in life is determined by fate and one should accept this fact with love and enthusiasm, rather than resisting it.
Amor fati in simple terms means to embrace one’s fate, no matter how good or bad it may seem. Shakespeare also was well known for his perspective on fate in his play Hamlet. One of his most popular lines being “Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.”.
Hamlet is expressing his belief that the nature of things is not inherently good or bad, but rather that our perception of things determines whether they are good or bad. This is a powerful statement that suggests that our thoughts and beliefs have the power to shape our experience of the world around us. That thinking makes us suffer in our prison of the mind.
The Buddhists also believe in a similar idea subject to the law of karma, which is the idea that one’s actions, thoughts, and intentions have consequences that affect one’s circumstances. While the Buddhists do not see karma as fate, they emphasize the idea of the transitory nature of all things, including one’s own life and that everything is constantly changing.
In Taoism, the concept of fate is seen as a part of the natural order of things, which is called the Tao. Taoists believe that all things including humans, are subject to the natural flow of the universe and that fate is the outcome of one’s interplay of their actions with the universe.
Taoism emphasizes the idea of “Wu Wei” which represents a practice of non-action. While it is misinterpreted for doing nothing, this more aligns with the idea of not resisting the natural order and aligning oneself with the Tao to face these difficult circumstances.
The idea of balance is constant between every major philosophy. For the Stoics, it is moderation in all things. For Buddhists, it is the “Middle Way”. For Taoists, it is finding harmony between Yin and Yang.
When I look at these three major philosophies, I see the same elementary teachings with different cultural origins and practices. They all have a common view of fate where one can find peace with. That by finding peace with our fate, we liberate ourselves from the absurd reality of life — suffering.
All I know is one thing. Fate is real. You think it was all chance? We’re supposed to be here. You are supposed to be here.
You control your destiny. You can either run from it or you can rise to meet it.
Destiny, she can surprise you. She can lift you up, highlight your strengths. Or she can ruin your confidence, reveal your faults, and make you question your purpose.
Destiny is a bit of an asshole really. But some of us, a lucky few, can seize control of Destiny, and bend it toward the good, the fair, and the just.