Character Is Fate Essay

Character is Fate – Essay “A man’s character is his fate” once said the Greek philosopher Heraclites. By this he meant that our personalities and actions shape the outcomes of our lives and therefore our destiny. This statement opposes the traditional view that man’s fate is determined by an external force (name it god or even chance). This argument is basically one of faith: do you believe we shape our own futures by how we act, or are our lives programmed in a certain unchangeable way?

In other words, do you believe in an omnipotent being that has our lives or at least our futures predetermined? As we shall see, a man’s character defines his life (as his behaviour, emotions and actions determine his daily life), but I believe that our fate is predetermined and unchangeable and that there is divine intervention, therefore a matter that we have no control over. To support the fact that we might be able to define our daily life but not our fates or futures there is the unanswered question of ‘why do bad things happen to good people? Furthermore, character is not the only aspect in deciding a man’s fate: external events (chance and Nature) will also alter the processes and outcomes of our lives. Heraclites and Novalis (German philosopher)[1] had an interesting argument, but unfortunately one that only applies in a utopian world. Many people believe that a person’s personality determines their place in life, therefore supporting Heraclites’ idea. Basically, this suggests that depending on how a person lives, what he does and how he deals with events the outcome of his life will be shaped accordingly.

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For example, in Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’, we understand that Mr. Henchard’s personality flaws (his temper and his naivety especially) lead him slowly to worse situations, which finally end up in him not wanting to be remembered once he is dead. On the other hand, Farfrae, a character which is much more appealing, sensitive, humane and kind is victim of fortunate events such as the prosperity of his business and his marriage to Lucetta.

Both these cases can be attributed to the fact that life is working against Henchard while it works very well for Farfrae due to their aforementioned personalities. Unquestionably, the way in which we act will attract positive or negative outcomes respectively. In this matter, we could say that we are the architects of our fates[2] and that even though it might be very difficult to do so, we can manage to change our personality and therefore change our fates in a desired direction.

Fate is in our hands (or should we better say in our character), as Scottish author Samuel Smiles words tell us: “Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny. ”[3] On the other hand, if we follow the argument discussed in the previous paragraph, then we could draw the conclusion that good things should always happen to good people and bad things to bad people.

In real life, this is almost never true, and in many examples we can find quite the opposite: bad things happening to good people and vice versa. How many good and innocent people have been victims of the greed of evil people such as the Holocaust, the Iraq War or the bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima? If we want to narrow this to a theological explanation, then we can argue that God made us all in his image, therefore making us independent of moral choice and giving us total freedom (this suggests that we can control our characters in the way we decide because we have been given the freedom to do so.

I don’t support this idea, but it is however the most rational to explain why bad things happen to good people: as there are also bad people in the world that act freely, then you can be a victim of their acts no matter who you are or how you are). However, as he has given everyone freedom, then we can all be victims of good and bad from other people. [4] Your character might determine your fate, but it is not the sole factor because as we can see, bad things can happen to good people and vice versa.

I believe that this is a matter of chance (the fact that a good person might get in the way of a bad one and therefore have a terrible outcome which his/her character doesn’t reflect) and even tough we might have a certain personality that should lead us to a consequent destiny, unexpected and random variables get in the way and might change the course of our fates. Definitely our character will have an important role to play in determining the outcomes of our lives, but from this idea we can draw the idea that although character controls our life, we can’t control our fates: our fates are predestined.

We can call these omnipotent force God, devil, providence or chance, but the fact is that our fate has already been planned for us and even if we could change our character (making us believe that we are changing our fate), we are only changing direction into a fate we think is new, but in reality is the fate that was always predestined for us. Furthermore, character is not the only factor in determining our lives. We must consider external factors such as the environment, nature and fortune. For example, in the novel ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ by Thomas Hardy, the main character, Mr.

Henchard organizes a fair for the townspeople in order to show the people that despite what he appears to be, he is really kind and humane. Everything turns out wrong for him because heavy rain ruins the event (Nature intervenes) and later on in the book when he finally tries to redeem himself by taking good care of her daughter, he finds out that she is really not her daughter and that her real daughter died many years ago (fortune intervenes). We can’t attribute this ‘bad luck’ to Henchard’s character; this is simply a series of external factors that play against him in a random and unfortunate way.

Yet another example is a Jewish story about a man, Moishe Lipsky, who moved into New York in the time of the Great Depression and when he applied for the only job he could find (a janitor), he was turned down because he was illiterate. So, he opened a little storefront and gradually became a rich and successful man. One day, when he goes to the bank to ask for a loan and he signs the papers with an X (as he was illiterate) and the loan officer tells him ‘Just think, in just a few years you have become a very rich man. It makes me wonder what you would have become if you could read and write’ and Lipsky answers ‘A janitor’. 5] It is ironical how things turn out in this story, but chance certainly plays a role in the success of this good and honest man. He arrives to America just in a difficult time and his predestined conditions make him illiterate. Without these factors of Nature, chance or omnipotence, the man could have actually turned out to be a janitor and not the successful businessman he turned out to be. Anyone who has a belief in an omnipotent body must understand that our nature is predestined and that our futures are set, so no matter what we do, we will always make our choices to lead the way to our predetermined fate.

In an idealistic world, our character is certainly our fate, if no external factors (chance or nature) intervene. However, even though in practice we can definitely say that our personalities shape our destiny, I believe that God has a definite purpose for each one of us and therefore He has determined our destiny from the very first moment we were conceived. Furthermore, the fact that good things happen to bad people and vice versa reflects the fact that our fates must be predetermined, and therefore while our personalities might lead us in a certain way, our fate (whether good or bad) is already written.

We can change our characters at free will and this will make us lead an ensuing life, but our destiny is set and no matter what we do, we will never be able to determine it. ———————– [1] “Character and fate are two words for the same thing” – Novalis [2] “Each man is the architect of his own fate. ” – Appius Claudius [3] http://www. americanchronicle. com/articles/view/20750 [4] http://judaism. about. com/library/3_askrabbi_o/bl_simmons_murder. htm [5] http://www. petermalakoff. com/character_and_fate. html


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