Robert Frost once wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” Frost’s choice was his, but where the road took him was a decision out of his hands. I believe that one has control of their own choices, but ultimately their path is chosen by something higher above.
Choices are often preempted by what I consider to be a greater force. On the morning of the September 11, 2001 attacks, American animator Seth MacFarlane (creator and voice talent for Family Guy and American Dad) was scheduled to return to Los Angeles on American Airlines Flight 11. MacFarlane has stated that he tried to make the flight, but arrived about ten minutes after final boarding ended. At 8:14 am, fifteen minutes after the departure of American Airlines Flight 11, the plane was hijacked before it crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. In 2005, MacFarlane confessed that he’d been out drinking the night before and was late because of a hangover. Had he not stayed out late (engaging in alcohol consumption – what some may consider a high risk activity), he might have died. Similarly, American actor Mark Wahlberg has claimed to have had a reservation to fly from his hometown of Boston back to Los Angeles on September 11, 2001, on either United Airlines Flight 175 or American Airlines Flight 11. He decided on the previous day to go instead to Toronto to meet with friends.
You may hear hundreds of stories just like the ones shared above; indeed, after the Titanic sank in 1912, newspapers were filled with stories from people who were supposed to be aboard the cursed luxury liner and had changes of plans at the very last minute. Still, one may argue, could this just be coincidence, rather than fate? I argue that coincidences are little occurrences that complement each other, while strokes of fate and destiny are life-saving or life-changing. How else could they be explained, if not the brush of the hand of something greater?
The idea of choice and destiny was discussed at length in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which the eponymous protagonist is presented with the prophecy that he will become the Thane of Glamis, the Thane of Cawdor, and then become the king of Scotland. The title of Thane of Cawdor is bestowed upon Macbeth shortly after he receives his prophecy, with no effort taken by Macbeth to achieve it. When Macbeth takes the possibility of becoming king into his own hands by murdering Duncan, the reader is left wondering: if Macbeth so easily gained the title Thane of Cawdor, would the crown have fallen into his hands as well? Instead, the reader is left reeling at the choices Macbeth has made and the increasingly bloodied hands he gains as he fulfills what must have been fate all along.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.