On fatalism versus taking control of your life

Glacial Exploration

I’ve always resisted the idea of fate, of pre-determination. For better or worse I like to think that I have a degree of control in my direction. Take a simple (hopefully universal) example. When I was in Northern Ireland, I frequently used a coin toss to help me make decisions. “Ho Hoooo!” some of you may cry, “That’s fate right there, boy!”, but wait a second. I’d toss the coin, and call tails. And I found that where I may have thought I wasn’t sure about which result I wanted, if the coin toss result felt wrong, then I’d make it “best two out of three”. It was the only way I sometimes found, to determine what my heart was trying to tell me.

I’m not sure what it is that enables/disables people to put their trust in some divine force or energy plotting a path for them through life. I can’t get away from the thought that it’s merely an excuse for not trying to make the right choices, and of course accepting the blame for when you choose poorly.

I have to admit though, that I haven’t always attacked my goals with enough gusto. In hindsight though, that was usually due to misunderstanding what it was I wanted. I was pretty keen on being a Rock God at around 19-21 (ok, maybe 19-35…), so I bought a guitar, learnt a few chords, and joined a band. Over that brief period of attempted musicianship, I put a degree of practice in, but it was the trappings that I was enthused about. There were so many things to master, and growing my hair took considerably less effort than endlessly practicing scales. I realised some time later, that the issue lay within hoping to be a Rock God, rather than wanting to be a musician. Yeah, you got me, I haven’t always been the conscientious, aspiring writer philosopher. I blame my hormones. Bless ’em.

What if we don’t aspire to lofty goals though, are some of us destined to merely support the ambitions of others? It is possible in societies with relatively low levels of poverty, high levels of employment, and a tendency to promote moderation, to amble your way through life. From high school, to the first office job that doesn’t decline you, to the first girl or boy that doesn’t laugh and point. From there it is so, so easy to impregnate the female in a romance free coitus. And then wheeeeee, you can shift the entire responsibility achieving anything significant on to your children. But as those little critters grow, they extract moral structure, a desire to improve, and belief in achieving their dreams from (amongst others) their parents. And so your hopes at living vicariously through your children’s fulfilment of your own unexpressed desires…it ebbs away before your eyes.

Ok, so that’s a pretty dreary interpretation of a life lived simply, but that’s what I see happening if too many of us decide to let the universe dictate. Without the struggle, without the strive towards goals more ambitious than mere existence and reproduction, we’re gradually reversing Darwinism. And unfortunately there are too many people happy to jump on the bandwagon, to profit from helping you eliminate any need to struggle. From drug companies pushing pacification by pill, to a media that too frequently seeks to entertain rather than inform, we’re at risk of being coerced towards mental neutrality, and being left with dwindling decision making powers.

Not this boy, and not those I admire. I need to actively live my life, to strive, struggle and fight my way to the things I believe matter. If we raise children, we owe it to them to provide them with role models who hold onto their own dreams, while inspiring others to discern their own. We can all achieve so much more if we realise we have the freedom, and the power, to make choices. If we meekly relinquish control of our existence, if we leave it in the hands of fate, I think we do ourselves a disservice.

I never made it to the stages of Glastonbury or Coachella as a guitarist, nor have I sold a painting for a Damien Hirst thrashing sum, but I don’t dedicate my failures to fate. We deserve the things we focus on, and struggle for. So understanding what sorts of things bring you happiness, should allow you to set goals that are positive for you, that improve you as a person. Unless of course the accumulation of capital at the expense of others ACTUALLY makes you happy. In which case I’ll happily close my eyes, whistle a tune, and let karma king-hit you in the balls.

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One thought on “On fatalism versus taking control of your life”

  1. “I can’t get away from the thought that it’s merely an excuse for not trying to make the right choices”
    I go with that.

    I think it’s far too easy for humans to put their life choices in a religion, a false god, or any number of things which mean we don’t need to make an active choice and engage our brains. We love to defer responsibility. How many times do you see a politician or anyone for that matter publicly declare they were wrong and fully accept the blame for some fiasco? Rarely.

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