Tag Archive | Fate & Free Will

These Decisions

Over the past eighteen months I have felt the urge to write gushingly about Rumi. I have chosen not to for fear of sounding like the latest person to learn of the Good News – talking to others as though I’m the only one who has heard of it. There have been a few moments where something has squirted out on social media: a couple of posts on other social media, even a fragment referenced on this blog. I come by the enthusiasm honestly. I have been reading a poem each morning to my wife over the past year and half from a large compilation of Rumi’s work. If you’ve read his work before, you might appreciate his nuanced awareness of our world, which is quite a feat considering how long ago he lived. In short, I’m a fan. Because I’m reading one a day, and not necessarily studying his work, I can be moved at breakfast, but forget the image or the phrasing that I liked so much by lunch time.

But then, every so often something grabs ahold of me for a longer stretch. I’m feeling that stretch at the moment. He wrote something that’s gotten inside and given me a good shake. Last week, I read “These Decisions.” It goes:

 

The old argument continues about fate and free will with

the king and his advisors

 

talking. The king rebuts their contention that all actions

are predestined. “But

 

surely we must be responsible for what we do! Why else

would Adam admit guilt?

 

Rather, he would have used Satan’s answer, You led me

astray. Adam did have a

 

choice.” Yet somehow both are true, destiny and free will.

We vacillate between

 

Journeys. Shall we go to Mosul for trade or Babylon to

learn occult science?

 

These decisions are real. One person drinks a lot of wine.

Does someone else wake up

 

nauseated? When you work all day, you get the wages. A

child born from your soul

 

and body holds on to your legs. When has it been otherwise?

And if the consequences fail

 

to show up here, be sure they have taken form in the unseen.

 

I have spent a lot of time talking with young people about fate and free will. I don’t pretend to know more than anyone else about where one starts and the other stops. I do know that the evidence of one, looked at from another perspective, sure looks like it’s opposite. I know that me getting to India was the result of one good decision after another. I also see quite clearly that it has been my fate to live here. I suppose the real challenge to the tension between these two ideas comes as we try to interact with other people. Maybe it’s that their fate and their free wills run into us and it just gets messy.

I went to a professional training since reading this poem where an idea was kicked around that the world is full of chaos and order. Furthermore, our work, professional and personal, is to hold both of those forces simultaneously. Perhaps you make peace with them, metaphorically pushing your hands closer together until your fingers intertwine. Or maybe, you need to hold them apart, like warring children you grab by the collar of the shirt to keep them just far enough away from you and each other to not cause more trouble.

Maybe fate has in fact put us all here. Our choices, then, more than anything else, may determine how long we last and how many others we pass the time with. A radical and yet subtle idea is embedded here: It’s not what we know that makes us special to others; instead, it is how we are with one another.

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