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The furnace which melts gold, also hardens clay. Before blaming thy fate, therefore, find whether thou art gold or clay.

IVAN PANIN, Thoughts

For all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

BARACK OBAMA, Nobel Lecture, Dec. 10, 2009

Great powers may be shaping the general turn of events, but human personalities still determine their own fate.

DAN SIMMONS, The Fall of Hyperion

Men make their own history; but they make it under given conditions, and they become entangled thereby in a fate which is in part the result of other men having made their own history earlier.

REINHARD BENDIX, Force, Fate, and Freedom

The harder thy fate, the softer thine heart.

IVAN PANIN, Thoughts

Our life is determined for us--and it makes the mind very free when we give up wishing, and only think of bearing what is laid upon us, and doing what is given us to do.

GEORGE ELIOT, The Mill on the Floss

The idea of fate has always had a special appeal in religious, mystical, and philosophical thinking. There are several compelling reasons for this fascination, the most obvious of which is that human life is short and human efforts are frequently futile. As a species endowed with the capacity for thought, people want to find some kind of explanation, purpose, or meaning for their lives. The idea that a superior force--fate--shapes the course of their lives and determines what becomes of them helps people to interpret their experiences and adjust themselves to their circumstances. Arising out of a state of anxiety and bewilderment, it thus fulfills a basic human need for order and harmony.

DALYA COHEN-MOR, introduction, A Matter of Fate

Fate is a manifestation of natural causes. That’s it. It’s not a conscious entity. It has no plan.


Believing in fate has probably always arisen in part because of the delights and terrors of storytelling. We have to realize--to learn--that in life we are not the readers but the authors of our own narratives.


Fate was some kind of an invisible beast lurking around them, teasing them. I could have killed you today if I wanted to, it was thinking. Or maybe tomorrow. Hee, hee. You'll never know. Just don't tempt me.


We must now be trained to do something we formerly assumed everyone would do simply by virtue of being human, being at one with an immemorial 'internal tradition': not identically, not correctly, but in one of the countless variations and moments, the 'give and take', whose dynamic interplay told the story and composed the spontaneous equilibrium of the commonweal, unplanned, unpremeditated, and 'unintentional'--just as the interaction of innumerable entities, elements and events composes the immense harmony, the perfection, of Nature: individually and collectively neither 'right' nor 'wrong', neither for better nor for worse, neither happy nor unhappy, neither 'correct' nor 'incorrect', neither 'progressive' nor 'reactionary', neither structured nor unstructured, neither wise nor foolish, but 'as it is', 'as things go', the Will of God, the fall of the dice, karma, Fate, the wheel of fortune, the Way. The Way that is beyond and prior to our judgments or discriminations or partisanships, the Way, the ancient Tao we once were, once saw, once recognized, once adored, as our own, our Self.


Looking backward always presents an overdetermined depiction of fate; by this perspective we leave out of focus the possibilities of action which existed at the time.

REINHARD BENDIX, Force, Fate, and Freedom

Human beings have always been obsessed with fate. It hangs over them like a dark shadow. Fate implies finitude; the knowledge that life, whether of the individual or of the species, has natural limits. The fate of each person is their death, and the fate of the species is the extinction of life on the planet whether because of the finite span of existence of the sun, or some other natural cause. Fate in this sense has always been an important component of human culture, deriving its power as an idea from the fact that there are features of the human condition which are inevitable and unalterable. Life stands in opposition to it in a permanent creative tension.

ANDREW GAMBLE, Politics and Fate

Consciousness is, in fact, what makes us human. It is not thinking that sets us apart from most other animals as many believe but our ability to think about ourselves. Most animals are not self-conscious, and that distinction robs them of the volition and purpose that allow us to determine our own fate--and to alter it as we go along. It is consciousness that makes will what it is--a capacity through which we make choices rather than merely responding to biological impulses. With consciousness we have memories that help us make plans and control the future; we can produce the most radical of discontinuities.

MICHAEL LEWIS, Altering Fate

Fate plays a role in many heroic legends. Oedipus must kill the Sphinx because the prize is the queen, his mother, whom he is fated to marry. The word "sphinx" in Greek, cognate with "sphincter," is from sphingo, meaning "I clutch" or "I strangle." She is herself a version of necessity, the tight outline that is the periphery of the universe. Like the Furies and other monsters embodying fate, the Sphinx is a mixed creature, in her case part woman, part lion. When Oedipus answers the riddle and destroys the monster, he thinks that he is liberating a foreign city called Thebes; but in fact, killing the fatal Sphinx allows him to go home, as heroes must--home to complete his fate. He had murdured his father "at the place where the three roads meet" -- the crossroads, the junction of choice. Having killed the obstructive stranger, his father, he had felt "free" -- to take the fatal road home, to encounter the Sphinx, and so to win his mother for his bride, as the Oracle of Apollo had foretold.


Our fate is something which exists outside ourselves, and which once revealed expresses the meaning of our lives. Apart, however, from soothsayers who claim to have a means of foretelling exactly what will befall us, this kind of fate is only normally revealed after a life has ended. Only then can the meaning of that life be understood.

ANDREW GAMBLE, Politics and Fate

The controversy about the fate of humanity is central and inherent in our cultural life. An apprehensive watchfulness hangs in the air. This is a sign of the times. There is no end to the facts and statistics cited as evidence in support of the opinions about where we are heading. Optimism and pessimism, enthusiasm and alarm, all shades, all degrees. There are penetrating insights, and illuminating interpretations of institutions, behavior and events. Persuasive arguments and diagnosis, an abundant bibliography, and a sleepless irony that misses nothing. We watch ourselves closely.


In the classical Greek view, human affairs are subject to the will and whim of the gods. Good and ill fortune alternate in quite unpredictable ways. Hence, knowledge has the purpose of fortifying the soul and assuaging the envy of the gods. The wise man always reflects upon the extreme vicissitudes of fate. In times of the greatest triumph he bears in mind the transitoriness of life; in times of the greatest calamity he reflects upon the unpredictability of fortune, perhaps even the possibility of a renewal. Knowledge is virtue where it helps men attain inner peace in the midst of the fate that is their lot.

REINHARD BENDIX, Force, Fate, and Freedom

I am a firm believer in fate. That no matter what we feel or what we may think we want or even what's best for us, that it is all predetermined. And most importantly, fate is completely out of our hands. Therefore, I decided long ago to let life happen as it happens. I also strongly believe that we are all here for a reason, something to be learned, and by simply letting life take its course than we shall learn what that is.

WANDA F. ROSS, Reconcilable Fate

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