This is an excerpt from a book I’m working on: “The Parables of Darian Leigh”. It will be a follow-up to the Deplosion series, highlighting the Empirical Physicalist approach to ethics and morals. I hope you enjoy it.
“Our only destiny is to live our lives.
There is no Plan, no Path, no Fate to guide us along our way.
There is no Way. Life is not a road we travel, bringing us to our eventual Destiny,
but simply a process that we go through. We make of it what we will.”
Do You Believe in Fate?
A young woman was excited to be starting her first day at University. On the night before classes began, she prayed, “Thank you, God, for blessing me with a wonderful supportive family, with good health, with a good education, and with a mind to take advantage of this great bounty of knowledge.”
Her classes were hard but she enjoyed the challenge. In her second year, her courses in Evolution, History of the World, and Religious Philosophy exposed her to new ways of looking at the world. But her education caused her to doubt whether everything she had learned earlier about her God had been completely truthful. She prayed, “Dear God, I know that you have a Plan for me and that these silly doubts have been placed before me to test my Faith. But I believe in you, Oh Lord, and trust you to see me through this challenge.”
She found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what she knew in her heart of hearts, with the new ideas she was being taught. She failed her second year and had to withdraw from the program. Devastated, she took a job waitressing in a local café. Maybe, the academic life is not for me – she thought. One day, a handsome young man came into the café and sat in her section. He was a medical student and she found herself as fascinated by his passion for his chosen career, as she was by his penetrating green eyes. They dated, fell in love, and soon made plans to wed.
“Holy Father,” she prayed. “Thank you for bringing James into my life. He is a wonderful man. I knew you had a plan for me and I am thankful for your grace.”
They married, and everyone said they were the perfect couple, “meant to be.” The young woman was sure that fate had brought them together, driven by God’s plan for them. Had she not failed at her courses and gone to work in the café, they never would have met. It was destiny—she told herself. She thanked the Lord for bringing such joy to her life. For the next few years, she worked hard to support her husband as he finished medical school. On the day he graduated, she was proud to cheer his success.
He began his practice and soon she found herself pregnant. They bought a lovely house in a small suburb, and she looked forward to decorating the nursery. Her husband’s practice thrived and she felt life couldn’t be more perfect. Two months after their beautiful baby girl was born, she surprised him at his office so the three of them could go for lunch and caught him having sex with his receptionist.
She fled to her parents’ home with their daughter. His betrayal destroyed her heart. She prayed through her tears, “Dear God, I don’t understand how your Plan could bring me such pain. I know you work in mysterious ways and that you have bigger things to worry about than me, but I pray you will hear my voice. Please help me to find my way so that my little girl, this blessed gift, will have a good life.”
She was soon divorced and fell into a deep depression that lasted several months. Eventually, the steadfast love and support of her parents helped her to re-engage with the world. While her mother tended the baby, the woman took classes at the nearby university with renewed purpose. She completed a degree and found a fulfilling new career. Her daughter grew, beautiful and clever, under the loving care of her mother. With hope for a new life filling her heart, the woman thanked God. If You had not opened my eyes and given me the strength to leave my husband, I never would have gone back to school and found this wonderful work – she prayed. It feels good to be able to contribute to making the world a better place. I am so glad I got to spend this time with my parents, and that my daughter has this opportunity to get to know them.
One year later, the economy of her country collapsed and she found herself without employment. Even her father’s meager pension was reduced by half. The next four years were hard. Her parents were forced to sell their home and the four of them moved into a small two-bedroom apartment in a run-down neighborhood in the city. The entire country suffered greatly. Jobs became impossible to find, and the soup lines were overwhelmed. The streets became dangerous as armed gangs prowled on the lookout for anyone with money or who looked well-fed. Misery was everywhere. One day a deadly disease swept across the nation and thousands died horribly.
“We are a good people and our nation fears you, oh Lord,” she prayed. “Why have you brought this pestilence to us all? Please grant that we may find better times soon, we beseech Thee.” Her wailing went unanswered.
As the hard times dragged on, she noticed that her mother and father began to look a little healthier and happier. When she asked them about this, her mother answered, “When we began our life together we had nothing. We spent our entire lives accumulating so many things we didn’t really need, and hoarding what we could to fend off an uncertain future. We were slaves to our debt, to our obligations, to our jobs. We were prisoners of our fears and insecurities. It is so liberating to be free of the worry. We have so little now that we have nothing to lose. We can focus on enjoying our friends and family, especially you and our granddaughter.”
They all wept for the joy of a simple life. Later that evening she thanked God for giving her the opportunity to appreciate the basic goodness of time spent with family, of simple pleasures like card games and a single square of dark chocolate. She smiled as she thought – I would never have learned this Truth if it weren’t for all the troubles in my life. She was grateful in that moment for both the good times and the bad that had led her to this point in her life. It was destiny—she told herself.
A month later, her mother and father were killed in a robbery that netted the thief fourteen dollars. She and her daughter cried for days. The city granted her parents a simple cremation; there was no memorial service. As she cried herself to sleep, she cursed God for putting her parents in a time and place where their lives would be taken so brutally. “I’m not even sure I believe in You anymore,” she confessed. “How could You allow this world of poverty, hatred and pain? My parents were wonderful people and You allowed some petty thug to take their lives. You have abandoned us, or maybe you never existed at all.” She could hardly believe what she was saying. She stifled her sobs with a hand over her lips.
Several years later, she and her teenage daughter moved to a city where there were more opportunities for work. She found a suitable job in her area of training and a nice apartment near a high school. After the trying times, she was happy to return to a more comfortable life. She met a new man and, to her surprise, fell in love again. Soon the three of them were making plans to become a family. One quiet night, she slipped out after dinner to enjoy a moment on the balcony. She smiled as she looked through her kitchen window and saw her daughter and future husband washing the dishes together.
She cast her eyes to the heavens and silently begged God’s forgiveness for having doubted His plan for her life. She thought about the tribulations she had survived to lead her to this moment. She also thought of her triumphs, both her accomplishments and the sheer luck that had pulled her from her darkest moments. She was sure she could see God’s hand in every part of her life.
A week later she began to cough up blood. It hadn’t occurred to her that the reason this new city of hope boasted so many opportunities was because it had been ravaged by the disease for several years. Though the authorities were fairly certain that the plague had been vanquished, she still managed to come into contact with some residual virus. Within two weeks, the disease decimated her body and she passed away in wracking pain.
At her funeral, her fiance spoke. “Like all of us, she lived through so much,” he said. “There were times of great joy, and of terrible struggle and sadness. Her Faith supported and comforted her through the struggles and it brought her joy in the better times. At the end, as she lay dying, she looked at me in a moment of great clarity and laughed. She told me that she realized her life had been just like any other. Not watched over by a caring God or His guardian angels but pushed and pulled here and there by her choices and by the unpredictable behavior of millions of others all doing their best to live their lives as well as they could.
“In her final moments, she came to peace with her life and with her death. I asked her if there was anything she regretted, if there was anything she would change if she could go back. And she said, ‘The only thing I would change was me, my attitude. My entire life I blamed God for every hurt and praised Him for every joy. I never took responsibility for my own life, for the good and the bad together. I never recognized the constant winds of change that blow as a result of the great conflagration of humanity’s efforts to survive and progress. Mistakenly, I laid all that at the feet of God. If He ever existed at all, it’s clear to me now, that He cast humanity to our own fate. Our lives, our world are our own to make.’
“After she passed, I thought about these words and I realized Divine Destiny, God’s Plan, Fate, whatever you want to call it is so misleading. How can anyone say if her life was happy or sad? It was both. What did God, Fate, or Destiny have in mind for her? Nothing. Fate or Destiny requires an ending, and there’s only one end for all of us, which is to die. Until we come to that end, be it happy or sad, no intermediate part of our life is our Fate. If her life taught us anything, it’s that good times or bad times can come throughout our life. Are the good times our Destiny? Are the bad times?
“Our only destiny is to live our lives. There is no Divine Plan, no Path, no Fate to guide us along our way. There is no Way. Life is not a road we travel, bringing us to our eventual Destiny, but simply a process that we go through. We make of it what we will.”
From “Visiting Lectures in Philosophy” by Darian Leigh