Fate and resistance

When we go traveling, we naturally suppose that there will be dust and dirt, detours and delays, and many other inconveniences on our way to the destination. Sometimes we may be lucky and have comparatively few of these troubles; sometimes we get the full broadside. Likewise, in living our lives, we may run into some discomforting (even distressing) events; at other times we'll be lucky and run along smoothly for a while, with none or only few of them showing up. That's the way it is, and there is not much of a chance to change or control it. And arguably, the more interesting and out of the usual a trip is, the higher is the probability of inconvenience; the more worthwhile your goals in life are, the higher runs the risk of some hardship or sacrifice required from you. And yet many people complain endlessly about those nasty little things that happen to them along their path.

In the background of such complaints is the secret hope that somehow you can have it both: go on that trip and be spared the inconveniences; live your life and remain untroubled by all kinds of adverse winds. This attitude is either unrealistic or straightforwardly wimpy (or both). It won't help you reach any worthwhile goal, for if a goal is worthwhile, chances are that obstacles are there to be overcome; more importantly, such an attitude communicates back to yourself that you are a plaything of circumstances and the will of other people, not a force of your own; furthermore, it also displays a certain questionable order of priorities: first comes your convenience (that is, avoidance of pain, as far as possible, and gaining of pleasure), then whatever distance you might accomplish on your chosen path.

Thus a first step is to give up the secret hope that you'll be spared the inconveniences along the way. You won't: they will happen to you. Again, some of them can be controlled, some of them can be influenced; but many are out of reach. There will always be some share of the favorable kind and some share of the unfavorable kind — that's a fact of life, it simply is fate (if you want to give it a label). That secret hope we've been talking about is in effect the hope that fate is rather like another person, whom you can argue with, or negotiate. But it's not. Fate (as I use that label) is simply the way things are. (We're not talking about how things are in a given situation: that is something with many causes. What we're talking about is that in many given situations, things will be unfavorable, and often enough they will be outside your ability to change them.) So don't let your responses be governed by the idea: "It might (should) have been different, this could all have happened without that nasty extra." Simply take the little nasty extra into account, adjust your course, and move on. The moment you get emotional about something that merely happens, you're going down the wrong path.

You can go a further step and take a stance of acceptance. Let's say you're slightly late and just missed the train; now you are annoyed and tell yourself that you have to wait for the next one. That's an inconvenience, maybe even mild trouble (depending on how important it was that you reached your destination in time). But be careful what attitude you have towards what happens now: you're waiting for the next train. Is it really because you 'have to'? You might call a taxi, or even cancel your trip. If you don't, if you wait, that's a choice — the best choice under the circumstances. It's up to you here what to focus on: what has just happened to you, or what you choose to do in the changed situation. (This doesn't mean that 'everything is relative', or that there is nothing 'but only thought constructs'; it just means that where your own actions are concerned, you always have choices, even though you may not always be aware of them.) Once you look at your choices and have satisfied yourself that you've chosen well, it's easy to take a stance of acceptance towards fate. So in this example, what really counts is that you are choosing to wait for the next train. And what holds for everyday events like this one, missing a train, holds equally for those things with deeper impact: misfortunes, losses, even that which is the final thing for every living being — namely, our own death. You won't typically choose them; but you can accept them, and then you're free to choose your own response. Take care.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by Leif Frenzel. All rights reserved.