Fate. Predestination. Destiny.
An esoteric concept that seems to interest everyone from Norse mystics to back-alley barflies. People tend to either reject it outright or use the idea to explain away every little oddity that happens in their lives. So, let’s take a mythical look at it through the lens of the Anglo-Saxon concept of The Wyrd.
The modern English word “weird” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “Wyrd” meaning roughly “the things that come to pass” and, more generally, fate.
The word itself is intermingled with most Germanic / Norse philosophy. The Norn
s, the three famous sisters who weaved the thread of every human’s fate are a common motif in all European culture from Ancient Greece to Shakespeare. And curiously, in Norse tradition one of them was called urðr, the Norse cognate of Wyrd.
Weirdly, it was “fate” the Norns were said to weave but a person’s ørlǫg, a compound word comprising “ør” or “out” and “lǫg” meaning “law”. It’s a strange concept that some scholars have defined as something akin to “beyond the law”.
Perhaps fate feels like a “law” but what could possibly be “beyond the law” of fate? It sounds paradoxical, surely? This makes me happy.
It means that even ancient philosophies probably didn’t have a complete grasp of the idea, even though we’re often led to believe the ancients had it all sorted and we are the weird, forgetful luddites of the future.
It’s understandable that migratory people like the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse would feel uneasy about a lack of free will, even with the notion of Ragnarok so present in their mythos. It’s an uneasiness that people still feel today and that’s why it’s such a fertile subject for conversation.
So, I propose a weird workaround …
The Cosmic Ping-Pong Player
I, like many other humans on this mad revolving ball, have experienced the joy of free will and the unsettling sense that something “else” is the cause of weird synchronicity or coincidence.
But what if fate is not a predestined “law” any more than an opponent in a ping-pong match is a superior being who dictates your inevitable loss.
Bear with me.
So, you want to fire a shot across the ping-pong table and score a point in the exact place you fired it. Your opponent decides against this and blocks your shot. Does this mean you’ve lost the game? Is this a “sign” that you’re playing the wrong game altogether and you should go off and learn how to knit? No, of course not.
Your intention is to win the game so you keep returning your opponent’s shots, you keep trying to figure out their game to achieve your goal: Universal glory in the cosmic ping-pong championship, perhaps.
Sure, there are some opponents that are so good you can’t win and if winning at ping-pong is your only goal then you’re in a sticky situation. Then again, every player has a bad day and sometimes great players – players who seem to have a cosmic view of the entire game – will toy with you to make you better, to make you good enough to earn that win.
What if fate is a little like that. Some opponent who keeps batting the ball into weird and uncomfortable places and at scary speeds so that you’re forced to ask yourself “do I really want to achieve this specific goal or should I find a game I’m more interested in?”
This could mean there are as many cosmic opponents as there are potential areas of life. There could be great Cosmic Goalkeepers whom you have to outwit for your financial goals. Or Great Cosmic Basketball Defenders just waiting to be dunked on so you can find inner peace. Or a Terrifying Cosmic Sumo Wrestler whose sweaty mawashi you have to grasp with both hands to find the one you love.
Any of the above could be real. Or not. It could influence you on a personal level or a world shaken by pandemic, war and deep hurt.
I don’t know, we’re talking about fate and fate is Wyrd.
What do you think?