By Kayode Ketefe
Let me state from the outset that the postulations in this piece may upset some people’s firmly held philosophy or even theology. The underlying ideas are emanations of this writer’s beliefs, tempered through personal experiences and more importantly, through that unfettered imaginative enterprises which, blissfully, underscore the prerogative of human intelligence.
Whatever conclusions reached here are not offered as sacred truth of unimpeachable inerrancy, they are rather beliefs shaping a personal world view. Contrary opinions are therefore welcome. Having issued this caveat, it is high time to proceed to business.
Are humans’ beings born with destiny? Put differently, is human life tele-guided by some superior forces which goad the person towards some ineluctable ends? Are we amenable to some cosmic “que sera sera” i.e. whatever will be, will be?
Some people are of the opinions that humans are like pawns in the hands of some spiritual superpowers, which had pre-programmed us, ordinary mortals, with the “software” that not only delimits and defines the scope of our earthly operations but also determines our final outcomes in this world.
The destiny conundrum has been with man from the time of his earliest consciousness, after the genetic spin-off from earlier forms of existence. This philosophy is extant in many lands and across many cultures today. In Yoruba land, a saying reflective of this, (which does not necessarily summarise the wholesome worldviews of this highly philosophical people), states “Ayanmo eda kii tase” literally “human destiny is ineluctable”.
This writer posits here that, apart from perfunctory faith, which any person is free to place in anything, there is absolutely no credible, pragmatic evidence to infer human lives are governed by destiny.
Nothing in the cumulative human experiences all over the ages points towards man being controlled by forces beyond the realm of the physical world. Believe in destiny is one of those alluring fantasies concocted at some earliest period of human evolution when the staggering complexities of life were too tasking for the then developing brains to comprehend.
Even today when the brain is fully evolved, it offers many people a great relief from laborious intellectual inquisitiveness to just calmly believe whatever will be will be. No need to probe further! There are two major variants of belief in human destiny.
The first is a belief that the fate of every individual is irrevocably fixed and there is absolutely nothing the person can do except to passively await events as his life unfolds. The other belief is that there is destiny, but it could be manipulated, within a strictly limited range.
The two are mere variants of the same superstitious belief system. The belief will continue to thrive because it appeals to both human vanity and vulnerabilities. Many successful people would like to support a belief that they had been destined for greatness; that there is a celestial imprimatur on their lives-this is nothing beyond fanciful narcissism.
On the other hand, the unsuccessful may be inclined to accept the philosophy of predestination because it condones excuses for failures. A sort of “Not -my-fault” mentality.
Scientific theories on this issue have identified two parameters – nature and nurture, as the exclusive determinants of human “fate”.
Nature in this context is the genetic inheritance which determines a being’s complete personal attributes, like physical appearance, intelligence, temperament, etc while nurture refers to the environment, both social and physical in which a person lives.
It is theorised that the interplay of these two factors shapes a person character and by extension, his “destiny”. It is the submission of this writer that these two factors, coupled with the variable called luck (or ill-luck) dictated by the blind, fortuitous chances of life, determine the outcome of a person’s life.
That is the conclusion that any worthwhile analytical approach to understanding the life events would suggest. Now is there any big deal concerning beliefs on the issue of predestination? Of course there is!
A belief in predestination may appear innocuous, but it may encourage an attitude of fatalistic resignation to whatever life brings. Imagine an accident where a plane crashes, will there be any need to search for the black box and study the causes in order prevent recurrence, if we are firmly stuck in the belief that the casualties have been destined to die, anyway?
Tragedies abound in our world.
We have seen couples who were roasted to death on their wedding day, a few hours after a cleric, in pious tone, had pronounced divine blessings on them. We have seen instances where a whole family was wiped out when a building collapsed; earthquakes, tsunamis, floods have claimed millions of lives, it will not be fair to all these victims if we dismiss the sad occurrences as their own destiny, instead of seeing it as calamities which can befall anyone.
The belief in destiny may also encourage sadism, where the privileged see themselves as the chosen ones and naturally expect the underprivileged to meekly submit to them in obedience to a perceived divine ordination. The bottom line is that there is no such thing as destiny! Shikena!
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