Celtic Riverside – The Online Journal of James Keenan

Fate (a few thoughts on predetermination from a formerly depressed and anxious free-will thinker that I hope improves your day)

I am not a religious man. In fact, apart from stolen moments of wonderment I don’t even consider myself all that spiritual. There is superficial beauty in the world, and there is deeper beauty that derives from the purpose and meaning we create for ourselves. Everything that constitutes my life is the result of decisions I made, always of my own conventions and protocols (even when that means feeling pressure from outside forces), and accepting (or attempting not to accept) responsibility for the consequences of those decisions. The human condition is often a cold one, taking place in a universe that does not care about what we care about. It operates according to a strict set of physics that will autocorrect itself if one attempts to deviate too far from how things ought to be.

And it is here, somewhere between learning to find purpose and meaning specific to my life and existing in such a cold, calculating universe that I find a beautiful fate.

It cannot be experienced in the moment – at least not often – only in retrospect. My decisions were my own. But if I had not absolutely hated my last job so much, if they had not interfered with an opportunity for a new job in Ft. Lauderdale, I might not have quit when I did – in time to land my current job, meet wonderful new friends, and gain a better understanding of what I want in life. I might even have landed in Florida, hundreds of miles from my current happiness. I wouldn’t have had that terrible previous job if I hadn’t graduated, years after what one considers traditional because I couldn’t decide on a major, and decided that I needed a new challenge. The slightest deviation in that series of events would have prevented this present happiness and hope for the future.

Or consider that the same slight deviation might have accelerated the process, introducing me to people and things earlier in my life. I could be madly in love with a woman who was dating someone else or wasn’t ready to be as serious about a relationship. I would be less patient, having not learned that lesson yet. I might enjoy computer science and analysis less. I might still be eager to travel constantly, having not travelled frequently enough to realise that gets tiring after awhile. At 28 I’m greedy enough to say that I’d want to have all those extra years of happiness with these people and doing these things, but it simply could not have happened any sooner and been so effective.

Life will get worse. I’m going to lose people and things contributing to this current state of happiness and it’s going to hurt. A lot. Some of them I’m not going to appreciate enough while they’re here, realising only after the loss just how important they were. I will wonder what would have happened if I had done things I hadn’t; if I hadn’t done things I had. Life will get better. I will continue to steal little moments, even during some of those darker times when things hurt because that’s what people do – they find ways to steal happiness from an indifferent existence.

Because here’s the thing about a coldly logical and seemingly random universe: it leaves room for only one outcome. Fate. I am the sum of my past – and while I can override anything I want and make the uncharacteristic decision, it has to be within my character to do that. I let my inhibitions down enough to make a less-than-sharp decision today because I felt tired because I stayed up last night because I wanted to see a baseball game….I encountered people at the game and interacted with them, the sum of their parts colliding with mine. We don’t always have the answers but I believe they exist. I believe that with enough data the universe isn’t random at all, but coldly predictable. If we attempt to stray too far from the intended course life will autocorrect to put us back on course, the way an earthquake corrects pressure or a storm system breaks humidity. Even at its most violent and upsetting life is doing what is logical to putting things as they ought to be. And we fear the storm – we get depressed, anxious, terrified…I’m not saying we even try not to be those things. But the storm will pass and we may even have to rebuild in its wake because it was stronger than it needed to be, but it will pass and leave things better. It’s not supernatural – it’s as natural as the run rising in the east. Some days the storm will obscure the sun, but it rises all the same. And that’s what we as humans do. We rise all the same.

After thought: Sir James Barrie wrote of Tinkerbell in the original version of the story, “being so small, she only had room for one emotion at a time.” And while we mostly enjoy having things defined (myself to a great extent), it’s important not to oversimplify the equation. Rarely in adult life is one purely happy, purely sad, purely afraid, or purely angry, but rather some mixture of these. Don’t let one take hold and define you.

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