Is Destiny Alterable?

What everyone needs to truly understand is that no matter what the circumstances may be, there is always the possibility to turn adversity into prosperity which does require intention, efforts and determination.

Is Destiny Alterable?

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”Noam Chomsky

There is a general tendency to blame destiny for all our woes. Whenever a tragedy strikes, destiny is cursed with sometimes an out-of-control uproar that is incapable of being pacified. The very idea that some are born with a silver spoon or lead an apparently fulfilled life or hardly seem to have problems, springs from their having good fortunes compared to the so-called children of a lesser god. Not only in financial terms, but also with respect to relationships and emotional well-being, all are mostly attributed to one’s fate. 

For example, a baby coming into this world can hardly be considered as having controlled its destiny in being a child to parents X or Y. Similarly, life and death are also assigned to one’s unpredictable period of stay on this earth.

Many conflicting arguments have been rendered on this issue by philosophers of different schools of thought but none has been able to propound a convincing theory, at least not for the ordinary mortals whose only refuge is resorting to fate in most matters of their existence. Whatever good or bad happens to them, it is on account of that which is part of their infamous Akashic records, better known as loh in our part of the world.

This is a kind of collection of all universal events, thoughts, words, emotions. “They are said to be imprinted on Akasha, the astral light, which is described by spiritualists as a fluid ether existing beyond the range of human senses. The Akashic records are reputedly accessible to certain select individuals—e.g., a spiritualist medium who conducts a séance. Akasha allegedly transmits the waves of human willpower, thought, feeling, and imagination and is a reservoir of occult power, an ocean of unconsciousness to which all are linked, making prophecy and clairvoyance possible”.

On the contrary, existentialists and those who understand the concept of free will believe that human beings are specifically what they make themselves to be by the decisions they make. According to French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, “Human beings are condemned to be free due to the fact that we do not have pre-determined purposes in life and must make meaning for ourselves through our choices…. Man will only attain existence when he is what he purposes to be.”

These debates between the philosophy of destiny and free will have been going on for centuries. Consequently, both perspectives have given birth to volumes of literature including poetry, and these days the online social networks are blaring with both religious and secular (not necessarily atheistic) thought-provoking podcasts in attempts to enable the less fortunate to come to terms with their destiny and to make efforts to turn around their fate for the better.

The fact is that for the common folks these arguments have hardly any significance as they struggle to deal with day-to-day problems of livelihood. Besides, who has time to indulge in discussions that seem to go nowhere. These are meant for specific types of people who have the capability to dig deep in thought. For the layman, it is merely gibberish.

However, what everyone needs to truly understand is that no matter what the circumstances may be, there is always the possibility to turn adversity into prosperity which does require intention, efforts and determination. There are many who derive sadistic pleasure from their afflictions transferring the entire burden on destiny but there are those who break free from this mental shackle and soar high. One of the present day example is that of Narendra Modi, now a three-time prime minister of India. Such men and women take their destiny head on and change it for the best. They do not helplessly sit around wishing they were as lucky as others and continue to grieve about their miserable lives.

Anais Nin has beautifully summarized the concept of destiny. She writes: “What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.”

One can also not ignore William Shakespeare’s quote: “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

Holding hard onto destiny would mean that all murderers should be acquitted because they are merely tools in the hands of fate to perform a deed they are destined to as is the end of their victims. This is agreeably a most preposterous proposition that defies justice but it highlights a sensitive aspect that relates to the connectivity of all living beings. It proves the point that one person’s destiny closely affects that of another which hints at the idea of compassion, without which societies could be catapulted in moral turpitude.

If we consciously bring ourselves to perceive that compassion is something which can overturn not only our own but others’ destiny as well, we would in the words of Andrew Boyd: “…grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”

Wisdom can be learnt from such people as Albert Ellis who says: “The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny,” otherwise someone else will, as happens in majority cases. A strong resolve is sufficient to circumvent and defeat the mischief of chance, if we only understand.

The writer is a lawyer and author, and an Adjunct Faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)