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Most people shy away when I say that I believe in destiny. The mere word 'destiny' seems to suggest something that's external, uncontrollable and predictable. Something about us that we cannot change or do anything about. This scares people because it means our modern belief in individual freedom and progress is one big illusion. That not anyone can become a Beethoven, that not anyone is suited for political leadership and that not anyone should or can become a great historical figure. Despite our attempts to create worldwide equality, the current development points to a world that's never been as ruthless, unequal and discriminating as it is now. Why is this?

I believe that each one of us has got an individual destiny. The most pragmatic and simple way of approaching this is turn to biology. Our biological heritage dictates, but doesn't necessarily control, our thoughts and actions according to specific behavioural patterns. We're products of our parents and they in turn are products of their parents etc. We're simply a small chunk of genetic code in a long bloodline of individuals and every decision - including whom you mate with and in which socio-cultural environment you grow up in - will have an impact on future generations. From a societal perspective this becomes easier to understand: pollute your planet today and people will suffer tomorrow.

Genetics is a good starting point to grasp the concept of destiny, because it assumes that individual freedom only becomes meaningful when it's contextualized according to specific factors where we either excel or degenerate. A person born with high intelligence can grow up to become a loser if he's forced to spend his life in an environment that robs him of all the creativity, stimulation and encouragement he needs to develop his skills. The basic platform for his logical thinking will always be present but there will be little use for genius ideas in a society where we dumb things down to avoid offending the status quo (this is why many smart people suicide).

In other words: we're born into this world with certain qualities, abilities, strengths and weaknesses. What matters is not simply what abilities we're gifted with but how we take use of them and shape the world around us. This is also where destiny comes into play. All of our abilities are gifts from our parents - in extension from our forefathers, ancient tradition and possibly also gods/goddesses - and as such we must receive them. Gifts are something you wish to return. How? By fulfilling them.

Become who you are

- F. Nietzsche

By taking use of our abilities and pursuing dreams that will help us succeed via our positive qualities, we are actively trying to fulfil ourselves as individuals. Destiny as a phenomenon can of course also be seen as something larger; the destiny of a local community, the destiny of our planet and the destiny of humanity. An individual destiny is thus always linked to a larger destiny and to live a life in harmony means your destiny follows the same ultimate goal or ideal as that of another individual, culture or group of people. Thus love, culture and civilization are created.

This might lead some to think of destiny as a long path through the woods that we all have to walk. However, for this metaphor to become more correct, we also need to recognize that this path is never linear or straight. In fact, if it were, it'd simply be a matter of walking to succeed with our existential journey. For all of us who've lived on this planet for some time now, we certainly know that this is not the case. How many times have we not stumbled over rocks, swallowed the wrong mushrooms, swum across stormy lakes, climbed high mountains and anxiously fallen asleep to the sound of wolves nearby?

It's no wonder that many people are afraid of pursing their destiny because it requires a great amount of strength, courage and idealism. Without hope or dreams you cannot move forward, for what point is there to walk a dangerous path that seems to never end, unless you imagine there being a light at the end of the road? The comfort lies paradoxically in a synthetic combination of our pre-defined potentials and the sense of undiscovered adventure that challenges our abilities to handle conflicts and losses.

Some will stop walking and drop dead. This is the course of nature. Others will crawl their way through life and compensate a few abilities with hard work. Justice? In life there is no justice. Everything is a play between unequal factors that meet, submerge and create new possibilities; "one man's loss is another man's gain." If the path to self-fulfilment was easy, most of us would have stopped after a day or two and turned back. We need friction to love life and see it for what it is.

To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.

- Hamlet

Friction also occurs between individual destinies. As Shakespeare's Hamlet discovered, if you don't actively follow your own destiny, it easily falls victim to a greater destiny beyond your control. As soon as we stop being in charge of our own life, we become tools for the desires of others. This is why often kind-hearted and well-meaning people end up serving abusive parasites. Individuality is our weapon to both protect and nurture who we are, while at the same time resisting attempts from others to turn us into passive slaves. There is no sacred middle course or golden balance where we stop caring about in which direction our life is heading and simply float with the river to self-fulfilment; just like exercise, you can only become more or less fit. Stop exercising your life and you regress into the abyss of passivity, and in extension, death.

Therefore, it's not surprising that modern people today have given up on their own destiny and live their lives as brain dead zombies in a bureaucratic, lifeless society that wants to erase differences, challenges and ideals. The mechanisms of the crowd drag us slowly down into their cave world of junk food, popularity, political correctness and promiscuity. Becoming "anti-trend" is not a solution, as such groups become yet another trend and thus get swallowed up by the same distracting background noise of modern society.

The only way to resist is to live your life according to your own destiny. Once that path is set out for you, you'll also be ready to further contextualize your life and work to protect and nurture the culture, the people and the environment that have shaped you and your ancestors for thousands of years. If that line is broken or confusing, you have the ability to create a new for generations to come. Destiny doesn't predict the future, it's a guiding star that both sheds light upon the situation you cannot change and marks the path for you to follow when you've accepted who you are and what you need to do.

"Who, my Friend, can ascend to the heavens!"
(Only) the gods can dwell forever with Shamash.
As for human beings, their days are numbered,
and whatever they keep trying to achieve is but wind!

- Gilgamesh

The message is never completely obvious and those who look for the One Right Answer to all problems are looking in vain. This is the adventurous part of life; we don't know what is waiting behind the corner but our destiny will give us strength and courage to face whatever is there. Regardless if it will hurt us or make us happy, we must see it as yet another experience in a chronological sequence of patterns that add up to the wisdom through which we're able to determine our future course. The search never stops; the desire to fulfil oneself is at the same time a realistic goal and an impossible state of being. Destiny is not perfection but it hints at a sense of completeness that we feel inside when being in love, going to war, writing a book, walking in nature or listening to great music. The actuality of destiny prevails before itself as ideal. We're not meant to become gods but live our life so that it reflects what is godlike.

To be a nihilist is to embrace one's destiny and remove the illusions that keep us from fulfilling our goals. Life is what we make of it. Although there may be people supporting us on our path, they must never become the sole reason for us to continue because that safety is a fragile excuse once we lose it and realize that we face all true horrors on our own. What to do when standing alone against the forces of thunder and storm? Resist, continue, succeed. All else will perish.

The comfort of being human is that while our journey may be lonely, the experiences as such are not. There's a reason to why we're able to pick up works by Homer, Plato and Sophocles, and recognize ourselves in the characters that go through the eternal cycle of human life: the naive child, the idealistic youth, the stable husband and the wise but tired and old uncle. History is cyclic; the essence of human life has never and will most likely never change. We can learn from who those came and lived before us, but similarly, when we feel like the whole world is against us trying to steer us from the path we see as right, we also need to remember that what we go through is nothing new and its final significance is no more important than a silent whisper in the eternity of cosmos.

By embracing our destiny and placing it in the context of the world that brought us to life, we are also able to free ourselves from depression, guilt, self-defeatism and passivity. While all of these feelings are natural and occur from time to time throughout life, a permanent negative approach to life will return negative results, since we won't be able to interpret life's challenges as constructive and meaningful but as existential barriers we cannot penetrate. When aiming for the stars that seem to shine just for you, remember that those same stars have been there for ages and will continue to shine upon millions of people, guiding them in different directions through life and death. We as individuals are not important but nonetheless -- what we create reflects what is important, which automatically grants our life meaning and purpose. Are you ready to embrace your own destiny?

December 12, 2007

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