Tuesday, 26 July 2011

'It is your Destiny'


The line will be itched in any Star Wars fan. The execution of the line, and the importance given to it throughout the movie made certain we don't forget it. We would have used this word on several occasions ourselves, and heard it used even more. But what exactly do we mean by ‘Destiny’?

My search began while studying for an exam. As always my mind began to wander while sitting on my desk with the book with complex calculus in front of me. In one of its many expeditions my thoughts landed on this concept of ‘Destiny’ and the question: What is destiny?

I looked it up in the dictionary (anything to avoid the algebra). The first result I came across was, “The events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.” I detested this definition instantaneously! If we presume this to be the true meaning of destiny, then from tomorrow I would rather sit at home sucking on my thumb and wait for the riches to come to me! After all, if I was destined to be rich, I will be. If not, what can I do? Moreover, we won't be able to blame Hitler for what he did either. Maybe it was just destined for him to kill over six million Jews and start the 2nd World War. It wasn't his fault!

No, this definition was just not good enough and my curiosity dictated that I find another. So, as I always end up doing, I started figuring out variations of the existing definition which could avoid these problems. One such variation was; maybe we do have a fixed destiny, but not a fixed path. Maybe Hitler was destined to rule Germany, but we can still blame him for the path he took. Perhaps our final destination is sealed, but our route isn't. This solved my second issue of 'pinning the blame' but it failed to address 'sucking my thumb'.

Upon further reflection I started questioning myself as to why am I presuming that 'destiny' exists in the first place? Maybe, as most people put it, we do make our own destiny. That solved all my confusion for a bit, but one conversation with my father and my mind was in turmoil again. My father questioned me, if nothing like ‘destiny’ existed, then why do people with roughly similar 'characteristics' and level of efforts end up with such different lives? Why after working so hard for my IB Mathematics paper, and scoring a 7 consistently before the actual exam, did I fail to replicate the results when it actually mattered?

Luck. I'm sure most of you would have thought of the exact same response. But that is exactly what my father was waiting for. He directed me to think along the lines that maybe this 'Luck', that we all curse and praise, is ‘Destiny’. I had never come across such a view, and I struggled to find fault. But the logic was as sound as it was simple. Destiny was simply Luck.

While tentatively accepting this version of ‘Destiny’, I began to consider it’s repercussions. I tried to consider as many examples of ‘Luck’ as I could and then replaced ‘Luck’ with ‘Destiny’, and it started making sense. So I was ‘destined’ to miss a 7 in IB Mathematics and thus end up at UCL. My uncle was ‘destined’ to win that lottery and have a comfortable life there after. I was ‘destined’ to be born in a well-to-do family. Sachin Tendulkar was ‘destined’ to have an amazing set of skills at cricket. All of the above cases we normally attribute to ‘randomness’ or ‘luck’. Maybe this randomness was Destiny.

My initial two objections, which I started referring to as ‘sucking my thumb’ and ‘pinning the blame’, were also resolved. This version of Destiny was no longer in complete control of your actions or your final destination. It allowed you to choose where you plan to reach and the route you want to take. It was now just one of the many factors that influenced the result. The role of ‘Destiny’ only comes into play when it, along with your chosen ‘path’, decides whether you will succeed or not. Thus now I can blame Hitler for killing those 6 million Jews because that is the path he chose to take. Pinning the blame: Resolved.

‘Sucking my thumb’ is yet a little complex. This is only partially resolved, but I was satisfied with the result. Most will agree, that the ‘path’ one chooses to achieve a particular goal can influence the element of ‘luck’ required. For example, (keeping it very simple) to create a successful business, I could get very ‘lucky’ without working hard, or work very hard and thus require just a little ‘luck’. The same way the role of ‘Destiny’ can also be minimised by your actions. Thus I may be very lucky (with a bigger role of Destiny) and inherit a vast empire while sitting at home and ‘sucking my thumb’. However, I can minimise the need for luck/destiny by choosing a path better suited to achieve the goal I desire.

This is where I have reached so far in my search for ‘Destiny’. While I am content for the time being, the complex idea that this is, I await for the time when someone points a flaw in this version of Destiny and I am forced to restart my hunt.

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