By Horisun Antunee
Have you ever heard someone say, everything happens for a reason, and immediately wanted to punch them in the face? I wouldn’t blame you. The statement encompasses one of the cruelest notions ever conceptualized: fate. On the surface, the statement is a happy little platitude. But when you get to its core, it really means that whatever you’re suffering from was done to you. Fate means that everything that’s ever happened to you was part of some master plan. Fate means that free will doesn’t exist. Fate means that you don’t exist, at least, in the way that you believe you do.
Does a world governed by fate seem fair to you? Would it be fair if every pain you’ve ever suffered was engineered? Would it be fair to make some people good and some people bad, just to benefit the overarching narrative? Would it be fair to make you believe that you were good or bad—that you did good deeds or bad ones—that you had any choice in the matter? Would anything be fair?
In a world governed by fate, what would human beings even be? You wouldn’t have free will. You could feel, but not really; you would only be able to feel what you were allowed to feel. You could think, but not really; you would only be able to think what you were allowed to think. Human beings would exist in a fixed state. Stripped of their autonomy—feeling—sentience—individuality—human beings would be like any other object.
Does the idea of a world like that make you angry? I think it should. Now, let me ask you an easy question: if you were god, would you condemn a world to fate? I hear screams from the crowd: NO—WE CERTAINLY WOULD NOT—THAT WOULD BE WRONG—FREE WILL IS GOOD. And I scream back: LIARS. YOU ARE GODS. AND YOU HAVE CONDEMNED COUNTLESS WORLDS TO A FATED EXISTENCE. For a moment, there’s silence and bewildered faces. And then I scream back from the pulpit: AREN’T YOU WRITERS?
When you write, you’re creating a world. You’re creating characters. But you don’t have the power to do that in a way that gives your characters free will. Your abilities are limited. You’re creating a beautifully complex thing, but it’s still a fixed creation. Differing perspectives might change the meaning of your writing, but that doesn’t break through what you’ve fated. If, “Kevin went to the store to get some milk,” then Kevin will always be going to the store to get some milk. Kevivn has no choice in the matter, and will never have any choice in the matter. If, “Susan lost her sister in an accident, and fell into a deep depression,” then that’s it. Susan’s sister will always be lost, and Susan will always exist in that way, without a chance to feel differently, that is, until you decide that she can feel differently.
In a world governed by fate, you writing a story wouldn’t be wrong, because you wouldn’t be writing the story. Without free will, it would be god’s story, and you would be the tool creating it. Having said that, if your world isn’t governed by fate, what would it be to write? Wouldn’t you be condemning a world to a fated existence? Wouldn’t you be condemning a world to something that hasn’t been inflicted upon you? Wouldn’t you be creating things with no free will? Wouldn’t you be cruel?
How is writing a story any different than your own fated existence would be? The obvious answer is that a story isn’t real. But, in a world with fate, nothing would be real. Both would exist in a fixed state. The differences between mediums is irrelevant. You could argue that the difference between a fated you and a character you’ve created would lie in your belief that you are real, but doesn’t your character believe that they’re real too? If you were in a fated existence, you would only be able to believe that you were real to the degree that you were allowed to. If “Kevin felt more real in that moment then he ever had before,” then how would his belief in his realness be less than your own? He would believe that he was real to the degree that he was able to.
Now, let’s think about the kind of world that you’re creating. Ultimately, regardless of the genre, you’re trying to tell a human story. You’re writing about love and hate and joy and pain. But how is that okay? Why would it be okay to mimic a world that isn’t perfect? Fate would be unjust to begin with, but it would probably be more wrong to condemn a world to an imperfect existence. Why would you subject characters to humanistic pain and suffering when they didn’t have to be subjected to that? It probably wouldn’t be an interesting story if it was modeled perfection—if it lacked conflict—but it might be more right.
Regardless of our own state, I don’t see how writing is logically any different from creating something that is fated. Ponder. Is that something that you feel okay about?