Fate and Destiny

The terms “fate” and “destiny” are used interchangeably. They are not interchangeable.

Fate is the world you are born into, and the genetic makeup that comes with you from the womb. The color of your eyes, your gender or transgender, your sexual orientation, the shape of your nose, the size of your feet, the place of your birth, the physical and financial resources that welcomed you into the world, the wars that come your way, the earthquakes and tidal waves you must endure… The facts that define you and limit your living are your fate.

Your destiny is what you do about it—who you become in spite of it. And, because of it.

We are destined to be more than we know, or have any right to expect. And, that is built into us, too, along with our proclivities and interests, and waits for us to dig it up like some lost and forgotten treasure, and align ourselves with its requirements, and serve its end.

Our fate is the life we are living—the life that is thrust on us, expected of us, by the nature and circumstances of the time and place of our existence. Our destiny is the life that is ours to live—the life that only we can live—the life that we are built for in the sense of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ verse, “What I do is me/For that I came.”

Our work is to live the life that is ours to live within the context and restrictions of the life we are living—to serve our destiny within the confines of our fate.

To eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand, our fate provides us with exactly what we need to fulfill our destiny. Joseph Campbell said, “Love your enemies and what you hate most about your life because they are instruments of your destiny.”

We are pulled forth, often against our will, and thrust into the trials and ordeals that are necessary to produce and refine the character and qualities most needed to fulfill our destiny. Campbell said, “It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses.”

Lao Tzu asked, “Fame or integrity, which is more important? Money or happiness, which is more valuable? Success or failure, which is more destructive?” It is clear that it is not at all clear whether it is better to win or loose, to be right or to be wrong, to get what we want or to be saddled with what we cannot stand.

This leads Lao Tzu to ask, “Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course?” And, “Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?” And, to say, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants. A good scientist has freed herself from concepts, and keeps her mind open to what is.”

Instead of railing against the way things are, we might simply have faith in the way things are, trusting that we are being led by That Which Knows along a curious and winding path straight to the heart of who we are, and into the service of what needs to be done—and, in so doing, fulfill our destiny and compete the work that is ours to do.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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