Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Philosophical Note on the Nature of Fate

Hey y'all.  So I was thinking about fate.  People tend to be rather "yes or no" concerning it.  That is, it exists, or it doesn't.  Doesn't it occur to anyone that this is strange?  Why should fate apply equally to all?

But to question how much fate applies, we have to ask ourselves what fate is.  Is it an impersonal arrangement?  Why would it be?  Why would the future be set in stone as though it were the past, if it were not chosen by someone in particular?

In my mind, there are two versions of fate.  There is base fate and fortune.  Base fate is one's own personality.  Given that you are a specific type of person, with certain talents, certain non-talents, a specific level of emotional tolerance, and of a specific genetic set of characteristics, the choices you have are bound to be few.  Take an essay, for example.  If you are the sort of person who likes to write, even a school essay can be fun.  There is no option for ignoring the assignment, simply because you (in this example) love writing too much.  You never would choose to skip it, despite the fact it is physically possible for you to do so.

This base fate is the same in all situations.  You will react to your given circumstances according to your personality, no matter what situation you're in.  This doesn't change.  Even if you react to my saying this statement by trying to do things against your general nature, then it's in your nature to rebel against what people (or blogs, or people who are a certain type) say about you.  You wouldn't bother to rebel against saying your personality is fate unless you were the sort bothered by it.  Which is still an action determined by your personality.

So of course, base fate applies to everyone equally.  We are who we are, consistent with our own internal characteristics.  You might think outside circumstances would have an affect, and of course they do.  However, think for a moment.  How may of our "outside circumstances" are really somebody else's "internal characteristics"?

Let's say you went out for breakfast this morning, and the restaurant was busy.  The restaurant is populated by people who chose to be there.  The restaurant exists because people chose to fund/build/run it, and their natures determined how much focus and energy went and currently goes into funding/building/running it.  If your waitress is the person who gets easily frazzled, this internal characteristic of hers means you will face a grumpy waitress, and you will react according to your nature.

If you yourself woke up cranky this morning, then it's usually the result of the choice of your mattress, diet the day before, and time you went to bed.  If this crankiness, by chance, is a medical condition, then it's more than likely the results of long-term choices you made, from food, to relationships, to negative thoughts.  Negative thoughts lead to depression, which leads to medical conditions.  And if none of those things apply, you may have got your cranky mood from the choices of people you live with, or a bad story in the paper (which is the result of people choosing to do something newsworthy, and someone else choosing to print it).

Alternatively, you may have had a really good morning, and, boosted by your confident thoughts and good health, reacted to the grumpy waitress by being really nice to her and leaving a good tip.  Your choice makes her day better, and making her day better indirectly influences anyone else she interacts with on her shift.

Base fate is thus the network of your choices that resulted from your own internal characteristics, as impacted by the choices of everybody else's choices based on their internal characteristics.  Base fate is the same for everyone regardless of who you are.  One might suggest that base fate changes according to how many people you've interacted with in a given time period, but introversion and avoiding people is just as much of a choice of internal characteristics.  Your lack of interaction avoids shaping another's activity to the same degree your interaction would have shaped it.  That is, if you didn't, say, add your point to a class discussion, the class debate would have gone an entirely different direction.

The other fate is fortune.  That is, that which controls circumstances that really are outside the scope of everyone's control: the orbits of astral bodies, the weather, the chemical properties of any given substance, how plants grow, etc.  I choose the word fortune specifically because of its deital relevance.  That is, God choosing to act.  Yes, I believe in God, and will continue to speak of his existence in this post (you may react to that however you will).  This is the basis for my statement that fate need not be the same for all.

God, an all-knowing, all-powerful being, is capable of interacting with anyone to any degree he pleases.  Some he might avoid, such as an atheist who would take every action to deny God's existence, no matter how compelling the evidence in front of him.  On the other hand, God might pluck out that atheist and bring him into faith, such as he did C.S. Lewis.  A moral person God might leave alone to have a good life, or might act upon to bring that person into a greater level of power, knowing that that person's morals will enable him to lead better or help others in difference circumstances.

One thing we know from the Bible is that God is capable of affecting human will, unlike what some might tell you (see: Pharoah Ramses).  However, given the number of commandments and choices offered in the Bible, it's clear that this is not God's modus operandi, and that he prefers either choice or outside circumstance to draw people into any given fate.  I cannot say how or why God does this (my suggestion is that God wants us to understand evil and thus does not always stop the choices of people who would do evil -- we have to learn to fight it ourselves), but that's also off topic.  I bring it up only to say that the existence of God need not interfere with the existence of base fate.

For that matter, God created base fate.  Where does a person's internal circumstances come from? From genetics?  Yes and no.  Genetics clearly do influence behavior to some degree.  However, there are two caveats to that.  Identical twins are genetically identical, but are much different people when considered as individuals.  Thus, not all behavior is genetic, and must arise with whatever soul the individual was given.  Moreover, God also created genetics, and thus, a person's base fate and genetic reality are all the result of God's activity.  So, even if God is less involved with one person than another, he also created the base fate that keeps life going.

To come back to fortune, the Bible constantly mentions examples of God's activities.  One of the things of note is that miracles are generally rare in the Bible (particularly in the Old Testament). There are times when several miracles happen all at once, and also several stretches of time, even centuries long, where there are no miracles at all.  There are also people who God guides constantly, others who he speaks to every once in a while, and others he never speaks to, except sometimes through a third party.  God is often referred to as having a specific "presence", in addition to being omnipresent and able to see all things.

While the Old Testament is before the time of the new covenant, it is still a relevant indicator of one thing: often interactions with God hinge on our level of trust with him, and our willingness to listen. Our behavior is, in a sense, tied into how much God chooses to be with us.  After all, God is a person, not a machine.  He wants to hang out with people who choose him, just the way everybody else makes friends.  On the other hand, God is perfectly capable of interacting with those that try to avoid him, and does so when it suits him.

In other words, we are all living under God's base fate.  Like with our behaviors, his actions are decided by his internal characteristics, that of mercy, justice, and desire for us to understand our choices to a greater level.  Thus, while God may allow us to make foolish decisions in the short term, in the long term things are going to go according to how God chooses.  Life is like a big Celtic knot: we are the turns, God is the pattern.

No comments:

Post a Comment