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Fate Questions from the Library

There is an atrocious war going on. The pandemic is just beginning to release Torontonians from its clutches. Our planet is melting. Sometimes it’s exhausting to question the mechanical motions of The Every Day, but questions can also reignite hope or else elicit a light debate. As I sit here on the fourth floor of the Toronto Reference Library trying to “skim” Homer, I’m staring at a scholar unwrap a Chewy bar wondering what other people think of Fate.

A view of the Toronto Reference Library from an upper floor
The Ref circa 2017

Fate is often romanticized because it’s a disputable idea. One of life’s little mysteries, it’s like a tiny fairy marketing Glory and Disaster For Humans behind our backs. She’s laughing a miniature inaudible laugh and we feel its echo tickling our ear hairs for hours on end.

Sometimes I’m reminded that people might be predisposed to love ideas that aren’t real and that truths are often not fixed and absolute for the eternities of our lives. Some ideas are great, but others can also be dreadful and damaging. If we’re lucky, our imaginations protect us from the harsher truths until we’re strong enough to stare right at them. By that time, we’ve at least constructed and nurtured some sense of possibility.


Who better to explain the theatre of our lives than the Greeks? According to Britannica, Homer wrote about Fate in the Iliad as singular and omniscient. Then Hesiod rolled up sometime later and imagined the Fates to be three very old spinster women — Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos:


Also [Night] bore the Destinies and ruthless avenging Fates,

Clotho and Lachesis and Atropos,

who give men at their birth both evil and good to have,

and they pursue the transgressions of men and of gods:

and these goddesses never cease from their dread anger

until they punish the sinner with a sore penalty.

Hesiod, Theogony

Apparently the three retributive Fates were even superior to the Gods, except for Zeus, who could occasionally interrupt their bidding. I’m curious how imagination and understanding intersect for people and how strongly they relate to truth in a character vs. an impersonal concept.

the view from the Jackman Humanities Building
City views

When something strange falls into place in a way that makes you seriously (or not so seriously) consider the existence of a grand scheme, what do you see? Is it three women trimming the tips of the golden threads of our lives? Is it one divine spirit moving through us like a ghost? Or do you simply have a feeling that something is acting as omnipresent company? Is life a Choose Your Own Adventure novel? A Nintendo game we can never replay? Or are you just a brushstroke in the sublime painting of the universe?

I tend to think it’s not black or white / always or never with these concepts. I hope that’s true for reasons of the terribleness some people need to contend with in their lives. I hope our actions are not completely meaningless and inconsequential, but I would also find it terrifying to roam about like a candle in the daylight. I love the ideas of fate and destiny, but I try not to get wrapped in them.

Whatever its shape and weight, if your faith in fate turns out to be discordant with the real truth (however that’s defined universally), what have you lost? I wouldn’t be mad at my environment and my experiences for coming together in my mind to deceive me. I like to think I’d be happy I had the momentary courage to believe in the presence of something whilst the whole world went up in flames. As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Thanks for reading along. CC



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