For some years now, I’ve understood that there are two forces that have molded me and brought me to the place I’m at, now that I’m 75 years old.
On the one hand there is “Fate”, a force outside of me, that dictates the environment in which I may act and manage – and over which I have no control: I did not choose my parents; nor the moment in history in which I was born; nor the country in which I lived for my first 20 years. I was not able to control the children who sat around me at school, the “class” in which I lived, nor the freedom to do as I pleased. They were “givens.”
On the other hand, somewhere around my 20th year, I began to exert another force: “destiny”, over which I had some control. These are the things I began to do because I willed to do them. I decided what I would like to study – and entered the university. I was able to decide if, when and to whom I would marry, and decided to have one or more children – decisions that were made out of my own willpower.
But the word “destiny” implies a place of arrival, not the road itself. Thus, destiny is something you arrive at after exerting countless decisions within a life of many years.
And this also implies that in your 20’s you’ve charted a course towards somewhere you’ve decided upon. A goal you aspire to. If you had a vocation early one, so much the better! But it actually means that one should be aware of the ultimate place you will arrive at, so that once there, you may look back – at my age, for instance – hoping that you do not regret most of the decisions you made along the way.
It is, sadly, not the case of most people, who’s fate is so strong it does not let them develop their aspirations. They let themselves be guided along as life takes them hither and there, as the wind blows.
Fate, you see, keeps acting upon you throughout your life: you may be hit by a car and lose an eye; you may get cancer at a certain age; a fire levels your home and everything in it; your mother may die long before you expect it; you’re in the midst of a deep recession… You may have been a Jew in Hitler’s Germany… But wait, fate can also be positive! You can win the lottery! You get an unexpected break! A job opening is created just for you! Your uncle leaves you a fortune!
These are all forces you have no control over – unless, of course, you’ve killed your uncle for the fortune… – and which intrude time and again, forcing you to make new decisions in order to reach the destiny to which you aspire.
So as human beings, we’re the product of a myriad of forces and decisions that mold us, which we hope we can conquer to feel that our lives – the only lives that we’ll have on this earth! – be worthwhile and make a mark within the flow of Humanity of which we are part.
I’ve been lucky. Practically everything that I’ve strived for has been achieved, depending – of course – on the talents I was given, the energy I put into it, the “breaks” that I got along the way my circumstances… It’s been a privilege that I thank my Maker for.
I only hope that most of you can say the same thing when you get to some ripe old age, and ponder on the life you’ve led.