One of my favorite students is a dreamer, an artist. He began last class by telling a story about something that recently changed his life. The story ended with him finding a new community of friends, shifting his outlook on life, and a newfound sense of spirituality. He believes the entire experience was fated to be so, and that a higher power led him to find that community when he needed it most.
But the story began with a video in his YouTube recommended page. To me, his higher power is an algorithm built in San Francisco.
Living outside of home makes everything feel fated. You are constantly out of place – witnessing life unfold around you feels unpredictable. Everyone is colliding into you with their own equally weird, variable past.
I’ve felt fate in two forms: absolved or witnessed. To let fate completely absolve you is to defer responsibility. Decisions become inconsequential – “I’ll get where I need to be” is a philosophy built atop a lack of control and indifference to that situation. If life leads you, it will provide and take at will. You sway in the wind, soaking up the sun, rooted in your subjugation to the world around you. This fate grants strength, confidence and peace, but it can lead to ambivalence toward your own capability.
Witnessing fate appears as momentary fascination and appreciation. It lives with two contradictory yet mutually held beliefs – you are in control, yet you are not. Life is a tunneled waterslide full of twists and turns. Your job is to be a conscious actor – to observe the ride. Decisions matter, but each comes with an understanding that fate acts reflectively rather than expectantly. Patterns reveal themselves, appreciating the complex history behind each moment. But you are tiny – the “dust in the wind” often births existential dread.
I didn’t give my student an opinion about deriving fate from a YouTube video; there was no leg to stand on. For much of my life, absolving responsibility by subscribing to fate has been a core to my being. It is a subscription that breaks like a bronco.
This newer experience of fate manifests peace from appreciation and awe rather than a lack of control. Tension between a decision’s consequence and inconsequence gives the world a new glow. Life is impactful but not too serious. However, I can see the threat of helplessness on the other side of this form creeping toward me.
Where’s the middle ground between awestruck and complacent? There is power in life’s coincidence, be it presupposed by a greater God or completely ambivalent. But with a life and consciousness, it’s a power you can harness. To do nothing in the name of powerlessness regardless of the rational behind is denying humanity.
We all have two common ancestors. And in some unfathomable combination of encounter, sex, birth and death, we’re left with these specific 7.7 Billion people, inhabiting now. It’s a cycle of energy that extends beyond humanity and into the world around us, a world born from Laws of Nature that predate time itself.
We shouldn’t exist in any combination, nor should the world around us. Yet we do. And for equally disruptive fact, we’re the only ones who seem to know it. We’re the ones who can bend the world to our will. So, take control, make life yours. At least, as much as you can.
Thanks for taking a sip,