A man I knew lost his father to an accident on the highway. He lived forever in the fear that it would happen to him as well. He never drove a vehicle afterwards preferring public transportation instead. He lived to a ripe age of 55 before he was mowed down by a bus when he was crossing a street. The man’s destiny it seems revolved around accidents.
Was it fate that he was always ordained to die that way? Or was it just happenstance? Is it possible that he wished himself into deliverance by being so preoccupied with fate that he never saw the immediate future rushing at him?
Everyone wonders about the inevitability of fate. **Is our future dictated by it? This is a common question that all of us face at different times in our life. It is a magic word which makes even the strongest to hesitate. Our knees go weak while we pause, waiting for fate to take over. In fact if we believe in fate then we realize the utter futility of doing anything to change it. Is this what we want?
Some of us feel that our life is a highway and we are venturing everyday where the land is unknown to us. The only difference being that the road has already been laid. So the vehicle can only go where the road leads. It is an odd feeling isn’t it? We are the ones driving and we can see the path in front of us stretching away from us until it loses itself in the misty outer reaches of our vision. But we don’t know where it leads and neither are we able to jump off the road.
Many people feel helpless because they cannot control the velocity of life while others frown upon its plodding nature.
All of us however agree that there is something inexorable about the whole process. One day you will graduate and look for employment. Another day you will be married. Yet another time you may play with your children. Retirement waits with the certainty of the executioner at the scaffold.
Events that make up life surge like a torrent sometimes flowing right through you. When that happens, you get no time to dwell on the vicissitudes of life. You just accept it with a shrug, many a time with a rant and very rarely you break down because of it.
But at the end of it all, the question remains. What is fate?
When I was growing up I always wanted to be a life plotter invested with the enormous responsibility of creating a map of a journey that a person must undertake from birth to death. This map I conjectured would have places to visit and things to do. It would mark routes that you have to take in order to navigate to your destination. Events could appear at any point on the map and the person travelling would have the option to either view it or be a part of it. I could insert insurmountable objects that would take forever for to cross.
Red roads marked extremely hazardous paths while green roads were relatively safe. Black buildings of all sizes and types were places to avoid while lustrous objects were there to be coveted. Arbiters would settle the person’s differences in limited situations but there was no real court for redress. Mountains grew on mountains and oceans dug beneath other oceans. If things happened and you had no inkling of the reasons behind it then you had to just bear with it. As a child that logic seemed perfectly acceptable.
It was after all a game and I was the master of everything that I surveyed. It was a fascinating exercise because for the first time in my short life I had immense power. Real life characters were transposed effortlessly into the game and the life plots for more than a dozen people were etched to perfection.
There was however a singular blot in the map and it took me a long time to discover it.
I tried hard to create different endings for the same person and found that was impossible. For one of my friends who alternately hated and loved; I create five different places where he would end up. But it was perplexing for each place was so different from the other that I could not envisage a single person becoming all of those things. Let me give you a small example.
He takes a long complex path through jungles and mountains and becomes the best mountain climber in the world. Unfortunately for him he dies from falling off one of the steepest mountains that he had ever attempted. In another variant he would become the world’s greatest thief only to end up being robbed of everything that he ever had by someone else who was far smarter than him. A third scenario made him out to be a priest who would spend his quiet life in the same temple every single day of his life until one day he was told that his services were no longer required.
The monkey wrench as I recalled it was the sheer impermanence of the person who was profiled in the map. He was forever destined to end up in a state of disarray at the end. Upon deep reflection, I realized that the flaw was not in the map but it was in me. As a life architect my mind could not dream of a possibility of endless life. Hence all my decisions were governed by the inexorable passage of time in my universe. Irrespective of any route that the person would take, he would always end up in the same place. This foreshortened my enjoyment in designing the game until I belatedly realized the truth.
Time was not an ally and it befuddled me with its advance.
Naturally the young mind is resilient and seeks avenues to discard obvious barriers. The easiest way out was to disintegrate the obvious adversary. So I declared time persona Nona grata in my universe. In fact all timekeepers would cease to exist and this ended up creating a utopian universe that defied my own expectation. Without time there was no entropy at all.
I found to my utter surprise that the person’s desire to do something was so strong that he/she would go on doing it forever. I plotted the life of a fictional writer who attained legendary status as the most read author ever. She was so good that people would flock to read her work. She churned out stories at such velocity that eventually the publisher ran out of space to keep her books.
She would write reams and reams of stuff that other people would be fascinated to consume. Billions gushed over her writings extolling her to greater heights. She wrote until she finally published her sixty third millionth book and the she had to peremptorily cease. Why you may ask? After all she had the desire to keep writing and paper was not ever in short supply in my universe. The problem was that she had run out of ideas and things to write about. Her well spring of creativity had been outlasted by her life. It died even though she was hale and hearty.
Her problem was easy to diagnose but impossible to treat.
As a creator I was at the crossroads of my journey and my feeble mind had run out of ideas. My limited intellect had to cope with the failure of longevity when it had seemed the only answer to my life plotting skills. It transpired that inexorable-time and limitless-time were two sides of the same coin. You tossed the coin up and the two sides would sparkle attractively as the coin dropped. But the final choice hardly seemed to make a difference. In one scenario my characters died and in the other their ability to make a change died.
I was nonplussed at this time and I decided to step back from the game and let it make its own rules. Clearly I was not helping at all by trying to create situations arbitrarily. I felt liberated when I empowered each person to make a new route through the map that I had not drawn first. All of a sudden new lines appeared out of nowhere and the whole map was festooned with the lines. In fact the complexity of the map now became a function of the vitality of the person. If the character was lively then the paths would crisscross indefinitely. On the other hand, a sedate character would carry through in a firm straight line. But the unwavering theme was the finality of the passage.
Another strange discovery was that if I dwelt on a single person on the map, it never seemed to make a difference at all to the actual outcome. The person would set out to do something and then accomplish exactly that. However if I introduced several people into the mix then lines started intersecting and outcomes were unpredictable. Lines would start out as red and all of a sudden miraculously turn green.
One day a grand old idea crept into my head striking me like a lightning bolt. At birth, I would gift each person with the ability to leave the universe. They could elect to step out of the map whenever they chose but with one caveat. They could never ever come back. The choice seemed to be utterly simple.
Live on the map, go through the journey and eventually cease to function. Alternatively, get out of the map whenever you prefer and…????
The bothersome question stared at me for so long that I became irritated by it. It had gone and ruined a perfectly well thought out game. What was I to do now? Perhaps I could draw up a different map that would encompass the non-mapped universe? The obvious solution dawned on me readily enough and now my universe had earth and other livable planets. The map became far more complex as routes sprung from the surface of the earth through space to reach distant planets. I was not aware of quantum dimensions or black holes and I was quite content to leap from planet to planet. My decision making skills seemed to take on a new life altogether.
Eventually (after many days) I ran out of space.
The earth had disappeared deep down into the vortex of the map and I had planet names that were indecipherable to anyone including me. But now I was tired of the map and exhausted of being the one to draw up life plots across millions of miles. I basically yielded with poor grace without bothering to apologize to all the people I had created. They had their lives suddenly snatched away due to the vagaries of their creator and deep down I felt they deserved infinitely better.
I had run out of ideas and the motivation to perennially create new characters with rules that matched their persona. I was happier living in the real world where decisions were being made for me. It was gratifying to know that I could not get a bar of chocolate to eat because my parents felt that it would ruin my teeth. It was exhilarating to feel the confines of a world that dictated my every action. Free will was a mirage that stuttered and abruptly flickered out.
The path stared back at me challenging me to take it. When I looked again, there it was imploring me to come on board. Where would it go, I wondered? Would it make me a rocket scientist like I always wanted? Would it make me excel in cricket so that I could represent my country? Could it lead to the top of Everest in my pajamas where I would hold the flag screaming like Hercules after finishing his twelve tasks?
I strode out and never looked back. I know not where I am going and how I will reach whatever it is that needs to be attained. I speed along the road to nowhere complacent in the feeling of knowing nothing. I am at peace because I now understand fate. It is a teacher at the best of times and a lover when you reach the nadir. Fate is the third eye of Shiva opened to scorch the universe that you imagine. It is the being that has answers to questions that have not been asked yet remaining speechless otherwise.
Fate is the cartographer of life.