“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
– William Shakespeare
“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
— William Jennings Bryan
“Control your own destiny or someone else will.”
— Jack Welch
The most fundamental interconnected questions of ontology are destiny-related: (1) Why am I here now? (2) What must I do? and (3) What can I hope for? In view of the issue of destiny, these questions trigger another set of questions as: (1) Is my being here now a matter of my destiny? (2) Are the acts that I did before as well as those that I do now and those that I will do in the future geared towards what I’ve been destined to achieve? and (3) Do I have the free-will to figure out, plan and design what I hope to happen to me within the time of my life here on earth or an unseen supernatural power has already planned everything for me and hence precludes any of my effort to change my pre-arranged destiny?
It’s not only an ontological concern but an epistemological certainty that I am heading towards a “destiny”. But to exactly know where is that is not within the limited scope of my knowledge. Perhaps I could have an imaginary glimpse of it but neither is it certain that that’s precisely where the trajectory of my life leads. It could just even be an aspect of my wishful thinking and hence a subjective musing so distant from the facts of reality. It is still and perhaps will always be a doubtful matter for me to know where I’m heading to in this world. I could consciously say that I am in control of my own life but to likewise have the assurance that I am also in control of the events yet to happen involving myself is not only preposterous but presumptuous. However, I can more or less approximate the course of my life and in the process figure out probable scenarios of what could most likely come about within a short range of time span considering my own strengths and weaknesses and having a reasonable assessment of the opportunities and threats that are presently obtaining and may be anticipated to occur in the passing of time.
In this light, whatever my destiny will be is all dependent on my abilities and limitations as well as on how I deal and cope successfully or unsuccessfully with the events that happen in the world, or perhaps it’s more reasonable to say, in my world. My destiny in this context is therefore not something that has been predetermined before my time on earth began. Destiny as I signify it is something that is in my hands. In other words, I am consciously empowered to conceive what I want to happen in my life and to actually make it happen, but again, on the basis of and thus dependent on a realistic assessment of my limitations and the opportunities I would be able to grab in perfect timing. This view of destiny has been prevalent since the inception of the Age of Reason and the Era of Scientific Revolution when modern humanity decided once and for all to sever its link with the simpleminded superstitions, irrational and unscrupulous dogmas and unscientific cosmology of the preceding Age of Irrational Dogmatism that overwhelmingly flourished during the Dark Ages of western civilization dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, its Magisterium and of course, the infamous Inquisition.
The American integral philosopher Ken Wilber partitions the evolution of worldviews from the most primitive which is the archaic period to the magical and the mythical periods until the time of modern and postmodern humanity which is the rational as well as the existential eras (cf. Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything, http://www.shambhala.com/a-brief-history-of-everything.html ). Appropriating the same Wilberian paradigm for our present purpose, the notion of supernaturally foreordained destiny came about during the magical and the mythical periods. In the magical period, the role of foreordaining destiny was attributed to some supernatural powers whose mystery no mortal could ever fathom. Without yet the instruments of science in an immeasurable world whose myriads of phenomena needed to be explained to appease the troubled consciousness, humanity conceived a reality animated by nature-spirits whose fantastic display of power was very obviously perceivable by the senses with all its magical depth.
In the mythical period, humanity was fully convinced of how this magical depth constitutes a systemic reality characterized by certain regularities and a constant arrangement of orderly events governed by the laws of higher powers located in heavenly places where planets, galaxies and costellations exerted enormous forces to control human states of affairs on earth. And the institutionalization of religion was inaugurated. Human circumstances had been dominated by a worldview that bestowed tremendous power to pantheons of gods and goddesses who were not there only to manage the daily grind of life but more meaningfully the future destiny of humanity. They were bearers of immense power of judgment that could grant and sustain life as well as snatch back and destroy the same life at the point of disobedience and utter rebellion. These were the gods and goddesses in control of human destiny.
At the inception of the rational era or the Age of Reason in what is commonly dubbed as modern civilization in the history of the western world, humanity has since been guided by logical rationality and the scientific method to confront a new reality. Nevertheless, this new reality in some significant ways has further evolved through time to the point of even having adversarial partisans challenging the sharp edges and the inflexible metanarratives of institutionalized positivistic science and the unyielding technicalities of formal logic to inaugurate the existential humanity whose destiny is what s/he makes it. What we have here is a continuously evolving human reality whose trajectory is one s/he has shaped and laid out and constantly rearrange and revise in a space-time continuum for this very trajectory itself is an aspect of her/his evolving humanity that leads to a destiny freed from the delusion of mysterious foreordination.
(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 16 September 2014