At the Crossroads of Necessity and Time

IMG_3925I’ve been thinking about Fate lately. Fate as a concept and the Fates as mythological beings – personifications of… what, exactly?

The wonderful/frustrating thing about the great stories is how large they are. They grow like trees, with branches sprouting and forking, and my perspective shifts depending on the branch upon which I’m sitting.

The Fates (collectively the Moirai, their name means “parts,” “shares,” or “allotted portions”) are Klotho, the Spinner; Lachesis, the Apportioner of Lots; and Atropos, “She Who Cannot Be Turned.” Klotho spins the thread of each mortal life, Lachesis measures it, and Atropos cuts it free.

Some say the Moirai are the daughters of Themis, goddess of Divine Law and Order. If so, they are sisters to the Horai, the goddesses of the seasons and the natural portions of time: Eunomia (Good Order), Dike (Justice) and Eirene (Peace).

Some say the Moirai are daughters of Nyx (Night). If so, they are sisters to Death, and granddaughters of Khaos, the Void.

There are variations on these genealogies, of course. But it makes a difference who their family is. Are they related to what is natural, orderly and right? Or to what is dark, dangerous and final?

Could they be related equally to both?

My problem with the Fates is that I don’t believe in Fate. I believe in Choice.

There’s no arguing with what the Moirai actually do, though, is there? I have a life. It has a length that can be measured. It will end. But what happens between the beginning of my life and my ultimate “fate,” are those things “fated?” Because my life is finite it will – in the way of things that have beginnings, middles and ends – have a shape. But is that shape pre-determined? I have never been able to believe that it is.

Some say the Moirai are daughters of Ananke, whose name means Necessity. Also sometimes translated as “constraint” or “compulsion”. That they are daughters of Ananke and Khronos, who is Time.

If Fate is the child of Necessity and Time, things start to make sense to me. I believe in Choice, and I live in a world where it doesn’t always feel like I have a choice. I live in a world in which people with less/different privilege than I have even fewer choices. I believe in Choice, philosophically, but on the ground sometimes the choices we have look very stark. Very narrow. Very constrained.

I don’t believe that everything I do and everything that happens to me – every choice I make and every choice that is made that impacts me – is fated. I don’t believe that all of these things had to have happened. But I do know that everything that has already happened to me had to have happened for me to be the person I am now.

And since there is no Me other than the Me I am now, all of those things that happened had to have happened. There is no alternate reality that I’m aware of or get to participate in. So everything that happened to me, in retrospect, was necessary for me to be (for better or worse) the person I am now. The present moment is, necessarily, built on everything that came before it.

What if Fate happens backwards?

Every step I took along this path was necessary to bring me to the place I stand now. From where I stand now, every one of those steps was fated. But when I first stepped onto this path, I could have taken a completely different route. There was no Fate, then. Fate closed around me, behind me, with each step I took. And looking ahead on the path, there is no Fate directing my steps. There is Atropos, with her scissors, at the end (or perhaps she was there at the beginning, cutting me into life, and someone else entirely will meet me at the end of it), but how I get to that End is something I have a choice about. Some choice, anyway. Even when it feels like I don’t.

Necessity and Time. I stand at a crossroads. Looking backward in Time, everything that happened along the road was Necessary. Looking forward in Time, the only thing that is Necessary is that I take the next step. In any direction. I make my Fate as I act, through my actions. Which, incidentally, is what karma means.

I’ve been thinking about Fate lately…

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