Fate: Destiny or Purpose?
I recently took up cross-stitch again — something I really haven’t done since I was in junior high *cough* years ago. Originally I started back with it in order to make someone a Yule gift. But, it turned out to be really meditative and somewhat relaxing for me (when I remember how to count), so I’ve since started other projects. The stitches are really simple: just a little “x” in the right spot on a blank piece of fabric. It’s not really an instant gratification sort of craft, but soon … little by little … an image begins to emerge. Each tiny stitch contributes to the whole.
The Fates famously work with threads. We see image after image of Clotho spinning the thread, Lachesis determining the length, and Atropos finally cutting each one. What happens after the thread has been cut? What do they do with those threads? I’d like to think that rather than just cluttering up their craft room, the Fates use those threads to weave them into a larger tapestry.
There’s a story that I reference fairly often that I originally heard from mythologist and storyteller Michael Meade. It comes from a Pygmy tribe in central Africa. According to this particular belief system, every person is born to give a gift to the world – and our lifetime goal should be to figure out what that gift is, and give it unreservedly. I resonate pretty strongly with this story. It fits nicely into this image I have of the Fates taking each thread and weaving it on a loom – creating an image beyond my feeble human comprehension – but knowing that I contribute to it just by living and doing my best to give the gifts I was born to give.
I realize that I’m offering some fairly simplistic ideas here — each thread is important, everyone has a gift to give, we’re all a part of the wider tapestry, etc. But, to be perfectly honest — that simplicity is what draws me to working with this theme. Do I believe in a set Destiny? I don’t. But, I do believe in Purpose.
I believe in ongoing self-examination and personal growth work. I believe in identifying the places and things that fire my passion, and doing my best to engage with them. And while I believe that I don’t always have the privilege of following my passions due to circumstances beyond my control, I believe that I can always access lifeforce and at least make some choice that brings me more in line with my Purpose.
And, there are still complexities with that philosophy that are tricky for me. When I had a near-death experience a couple of years ago – one of the most common things people told me in the days and weeks to follow was some variation of, “Your work here wasn’t done.” or “Obviously you have something more to give.” While I do believe that both of those statements are true, the former protestant in me struggles with the arrogance of it. Did the gods truly deem my gift worthy enough to spare me versus someone else? Do victims of violence and other untimely causes of death not have anything more worthy to give? Are they not spared because they don’t have more work to do in the world? I don’t believe that for a second. So, yeah … tricky. There’s an inherent privilege in destiny, or believing that I am here for a reason that causes me some discomfort.
And yet … I do believe that we all have something to give. I really do want to believe in this metaphorical “tapestry” that each of us contribute our life’s thread to. I can’t believe in the power of Community and not believe in the idea that we all are important parts of the greater whole. These are all questions I am taking into this intentional work Expanding Inward is doing with the Fates at our spring intensive. I welcome any and all insights into how you view your place in this world. This universe. This multiverse.
I’m going to end with a poem written by a Polish woman who was in high school in Poland at the time of the German invasion. She continued to take classes, despite the ban on high school education put in place by the Germans. She avoided imprisonment and death at the hand of the Nazis, unlike many of her fellow Poles. I can’t help but think that experience inspired this piece. It asks more questions than it answers for me — but I find it provides some good fodder for this idea of destiny vs. purpose.
There But for the Grace
by Wisława Szymborska
It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened sooner. Later.
It happened not to you.
You survived because you were the first.
You survived because you were the last.
Because you were alone. Because of people.
Because you turned left. Because you turned right.
Because rain fell. Because a shadow fell.
Because sunny weather prevailed.
Luckily there was a wood.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily there was a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a frame, a bend, a millimeter, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the surface.
Thanks to, because, and yet, in spite of.
What would have happened had not a hand, a foot,
by a step, a hairsbreadth
by sheer coincidence.
So you’re here? Straight from a moment still ajar?
The net had one eyehole, and you got through it?
There’s no end to my wonder, my silence.
how fast your heart beats in me.
This post was written by River Roberts