A reader of a column I wrote quotes from it: “[I was oblivious] of the torments Fate had decreed for me.” And he requests that I give a definition of “Fate” and explain whence it gets its existence. Who in is right mind would undertake to define Fate and tell the tale of its origin? Why, one who is not right-minded, who on a Fourth of July is somewhat adverse to firecrackers, flag-waving, and cookouts and has time on his hands.

First, one must introduce some controversial premises because no definition, explanation or argument that is not premised soundly is valid. The evidence is overwhelming that humankind is related to all other species, plant and animal, in that they have a common ancestor. Life evolved from a spark ignited, probably naturally, more than four billions years ago. The species Homo sapiens is a product of evolution just as are trees and chimpanzees. Humankind’s creation was not by a god who wished to place in Eden creatures in his image. On the contrary, the God in Genesis is the image of man. The God depicted in the Bible has all the characteristics, bad and good, of humans. An infinite entity would not likely be identical to a finite being.

Man is material. He is made of the stuff of all organic and inorganic matter. Man believes he is dual: a body and a soul, the latter being an eternal spirit destined to heaven or hell. But consciousness or soul is a product of the brain, which is a product of earth just as is the body. When the brain dies consciousness collapses just as an electromagnetic field does when current stops flowing in a coil.

Sociobiologists have established that humans are programmed innately with ideas and dispositions; that is, at conception their character is too a large extent determined. The determining factor is the DNA of their genome. The genetic makeup of humans is 98% identical to chimpanzees. Few would believe that a chimpanzee has free will but most believe humans have free will. The truth probably is that humans are no more free of their nature and nurture than are chimpanzees. That is, free will is an illusion. The reality is that humans’ deeds are determined just as are chimpanzees’ deeds.

The Biblical account of Creation as described in Genesis is no longer credible. It’s a myth. That there is a God who breathed life into dust, settled man and women in Eden, had His paradise subverted by an evil entity, sent his son as a sacrifice to save mankind, who through prayer is susceptible to a petition to alter natural laws and who will preside as judge on Doomsday—is a fable. A serious study of history and science leads to no other conclusion.

Since humans enter the world and leave it, that is, life begins and ends, humans assume there is a beginning and an end to everything. But such a concept is an illusion. There is no beginning and no end; there is just change. The universe is a vast cauldron within which seethes change, a process that has ever been and will ever be. Man calculates change with a watch and calls it time.

Thus, if the premises herein are rock based, then one can devise a definition of Fate and whence its existence. The latter first: Fate comes from nowhere, it just is and has been and will be. It has the characteristics of a god in that it is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. But it is secular; it is indifferent to beseechers; it brings joy and misery with dice; it makes no judgments, it scorns invocations designed to sway it; it notes neither riches or poverty or race or religion or gender or any other differences in those upon whom it decrees impinge. It is as neutral as the sun.

And now Fate: Fate is the sum total of all the changes, and their effects and mandates, that have happened in that infinite and universal cauldron; and it is the decider of the destiny at every dawn, everywhere of everything and everybody. It comes inexorably, sometimes on tiptoes, sometimes in boots, sometimes it brings love and sometimes hatred, sometimes euphoria and sometimes depression, and sometimes life and sometimes death. The plate of the day for everyone, from Arctic to Antarctica and from Hong Kong west to Madrid and on to Manila, is served by it. No one is exempt by virtue of status, wealth, power, strength, humbleness, goodness or threats and bribes. There is no appeal to what the dice have rolled. Destiny is chance, not choice.

Fate is the ultimate reality. It tolerates neither sentimentality or demagoguery or prayer or eloquence or anything but a sufferance and resignation of its reign. Those who succeed should thank Fate rather than expatiate how masterfully they have conducted their lives and gained power and wealth. Those who have failed can look to history and say with truth that Fate failed them.

If there is any truth in these premises and conclusions, then that truth should humble the rich and powerful, induce tolerance and forgiveness in all humans and provide solace to the poor and downtrodden. Also, it could provoke those to whom Fate has been less than generous to fashion a fist to shake at Fate with a conviction to overcome its decrees. Striving to surmount Fate’s decrees, even if futile, is better than to exist acquiescent to them.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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