I am not about to embark on an intellectual journey debating the ideas of Thomas Hobbes or Aristotle. Let me preface this exercise with a simple statement acknowledging that I do not associate myself with thought of that caliber nor will I even attempt to compete in the league of great thinkers. I will however put my own spin on the notions of free will, fate and destiny.
Decisions, decisions, decisions...
We are all faced with decisions -- decisions that may or may not significantly change our lives. Leaving the house to go to work at 7:30am as opposed to 7:45am may make a difference concerning the amount of traffic that will be encountered -- not a biggie but nevertheless a decision with consequences. What about a decision to leave at 7:35am which would put you in your vehicle driving south through a specific intersection at 7:42am at precisely the same time that a large truck will also be crossing that same intersection going east? The truck, unable to stop for the traffic signal will be placed at exactly the same space at exactly the same time as you -- that decision to leave five minutes later resulted in major consequences. Besides the argument for better driving, could you have made a decision to avoid the consequences? Obviously you could have made the decision to leave later, which would have avoided the coincidence with the truck at the precise moment, but you didn't know that the truck would be there at that time. Was the accident destined to occur? If the truck driver had made a different decision would the accident still have happened? Had you not left at exactly that moment would someone else have encountered the truck? The decisions that were made affected both of the involved individuals greatly. During the trips of both individuals, that morning, were there other factors that affected their simultaneous arrival at the intersection -- another slow moving vehicle may have helped in the timing -- a pedestrian crossing somewhere previous to accident may have also aided the outcome. But the departure time decision was the most important factor that resulted in the incident... that decision was perhaps your primary opportunity to determine your fate -- but you didn't know what was coming and besides, had you decided to leave 30 seconds later would you have missed it? Was it going to happen anyway -- was it completely out of your control? Obviously the argument can go on and on... like a repeating decimal.
Do we all have dates with destiny? There are many people who wish that they had an opportunity to do something over again -- but unlike children playing a game there are very few "do-overs" in the real world. We have all wished at some point that we could change a decision. For example, many business managers have found that relatively innocuous decisions sometimes put a number of seemingly non-related events into motion, which can lead them to serious problems, or even bankruptcy. A decision to invest in a new product line, which ultimately fails, or a change in their business team, can often lead to failure. How many business concerns realize longevity? Look at the vast majority of businesses today and you'll notice that relatively few are over 100 years old. The number is quite small. What happened to those "unstoppable" enterprises of the past? Some merged, some were bought out, some went bankrupt... Very few survive intact. Of those that have survived, many are dynastic and have built resources of immense proportions -- interests owned or managed by dynasties such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Du Ponts and a few others have managed to remain quite stable. In fact they seem more stable than most governments! Apparently the previous generations of these families seem to have made few fatal business decisions. Is it "luck" or is it "destiny?" Would the outcomes to this point in time have been the same had there been some very bad decisions made?
Survival - Instinctive Decisions, Coincidence or Fate?
We are all proof that either our ancestors made some incredibly good survival decisions, or we were all destined to be exactly as we are at this moment. If you look at the number of potential disruptions to the course that led to your existence, it becomes mind-boggling -- famines, natural disasters, war, pestilence, plague, political upheaval, emigration, immigration, mating choices, responsibility and many, many other potential obstacles and influences have determined your conception, let alone birth and continued survival. The odds of you being who you are, at this very moment, are beyond astronomical, unless you believe that it was all destined to be as it is... If that is the case then destiny has orchestrated all of the events to happen in exactly the order and manner that have led to this moment.
Would Any Of Us Be Here?
I will ask more questions than will ever be answered. On more than a few occasions, we have heard a parent say something like, "I should have bought [that] back then..." or "I could have gone to..." or "I wish that war had not happened...” Many of those events or opportunities that they mention often happened before your birth and if your parent(s) had changed course -- good or bad -- you would probably not have ever been born -- that's something to ponder. In my case for instance, if WWII had not occurred exactly as it did I probably would not exist today. Heck if you keep taking it further and further back -- had the Romans not founded my father's town, Martirano, over 2,000 years ago, I would not be here today... to write on and on about such gibberish!
Life is influenced by seemingly unrelated events, but in hindsight you realize that the events had to happen in exactly the precise manner that they occurred, for your very existence. Should the vast majority of the post WWII generations wish that WWII had been avoided? What about the Korean conflict and Vietnam? If those events never happened, exactly as they did, many of us, and those around us would never have been born. I guess it depends on your point of view. If you lost family members in one of the wars then you may have a different desire. On the other hand, if WWII had been avoided, my uncle Emilio would have lived, but then... I, my siblings, my cousins and others of subsequent generations would probably not have been born... If my grandfather, Giuseppe Adamo had not been saved by his Saint Francis medal, which deflected a bullet in WWI, I would not be here today... to write on and on about such gibberish!* And obviously you wouldn't have had the opportunity to read it and be inspired to become a much better writer than I am...
*I told you in previous column that "I am quite redundant..."
Timing is everything...
Timing is everything... if you reduce everything to conception -- timing truly is everything. The fertilization of a specific egg by a specific sperm cell, resulted in "you." Had the timing been any different, portions, or all of what you recognize as "you," would be significantly different than what "you" are right now. Given the number of sperm cells produced by males, the variations of "you" could have been significantly different. Hair color, personality, physical features, intelligence and multitudes of other characteristics would have been different if the union had occurred differently or under any other circumstances -- the person produced, would probably seem like a sibling of your current self. That's assuming that a successful union would have taken place at all.
The same question...
It all comes back to the same question -- is it all pre-ordained or is it all coincidence? OR... is it actually a mix of both... a choice, plus a statistical probability of the outcome?
Gigliotti, Lorenzo. "Destiny vs Free Will." The Random Times Volume 1. #12 (2004): 8 pars. 26 Feb. 2024 <http://www.therandomtimes.com>.