What is it that dictates who we (as individuals) are and what we become?
Is it that which kings of old claimed as right to rule, divine providence? A decision made by the gods or God that dictates that which we will become? If so, is this predestination, in the living sense– not that we as souls will travel to heaven or hell once our lives here on earth are extinguished, but rather that we as individuals will actually live in our own heaven or hell, here on Earth, dependent upon the flighty decisions of the ruling powers above?
Is this concept related to the Fates that the Greeks of legend so feared, the three old hags, snipping threads of yarn shorter and shorter with their scissors, disconnecting some threads entirely from the ball of life? Does fate exist and what role does it play? Is one birth sign really more lucky than another? Is it this luck that separates the prince from the pauper? Is it a really only a matter of hours between birth signs that dictate whether someone will grow up to be “made” while someone else will struggle with money and debt throughout their life– a simple day’s difference that separates a high roller at a poker table in Monte Carlo from a man dropping his last dime into the slot machine in Reno?
And if not fate, what of destiny? Can one not find many individuals throughout history that exemplify the fact that luck does not last and that destiny can merely be a fleeting glimpse– a flash of opportunity that may or may not jump into our lives at the right time? Are we to drop everything and follow destiny when uncertainty abounds? How often is it that we as individuals miss the opportunities afforded to us by destiny because we’re focusing on something else, something that seems more pressing at the time? Is this a daily occurrence or a monthly one? Is there ever fair warning? And at what point does destiny just give up and say, “To hell with this person, I’m going bowling.”?
Is it a matter of our parenting, of our parents’ ability to stay together hand-in-hand and endure, whatever the cost? What if they don’t truly love one another any longer? Should the child be made to suffer the parents’ abiding of one another with fake, plastic smiles? Will the child grow to expect the same for themselves? Or how about the parents’ inability to live with one another, fighting so much that they separate and split the family, creating hostility at home where a child should find only safety? What effect does this have on the persons we become? How does this affect our understanding of love and our relationships with one another, in both business and personal life? Can our experience in watching our parents influence the levels of success we achieve in our lives?
And on parenting in general: Should one bring the child up in the school of hard knocks, allowing them to make their own decisions and create their own path, right or wrong? Will this child learn to toughen up, or will life beat the holy hell out of him or her to the point that the child gives up on themselves and everyone else? Or is it better to pamper the child, coddle them in such a way as to try to protect them from any mistakes and hope that the silver spoon remains firmly resting upon their tongue throughout their lifetime? Could the spoon choke the child, inhibiting his or her dreams and the ability to chase the dreams until they become reality? If the child is coddled, will this create a dispassionate person, or a person more apt to passionately follow those roads they weren’t allowed to follow in the past? And then what will happen when that spoon falls away? Will they become angry and cynical that things didn’t turn out the way they were led to believe they would? Will they, too, resign themselves over to failure or will they put that damn spoon back in their mouth and pretend everything is OK, thus lying to themselves? Or will the spoon remain in the dirt, left to become tarnished and mangled as the child realizes it’s uselessness and pushes forward to attain their dreams with a mouth unencumbered? Is it better for parents to be truthful to their children, allowing them forge their own way and make their own mistakes, or lie to protect them from the pains of heartache and disappointment?
And what impact does our parenting have upon our dreams? Will a child forever dream to become a race car driver, an astronaut or a doctor, even at a parent’s insistence that the child’s hopes are just a fool’s paradise and that he or she should instead focus on more realistic pursuits? Or will the urging of the parent force the child to accept a life of mediocrity to the point that dreams become nothing but lost hopes? At what point does the child give up on their dreams and accept someone else’s reality as more legit than their own?
Or is it our dreams that create who we are, our yearning to become someone who will bring light into this world and stand like a candle in the darkness? And if so, what of past dreams? What of the dreams that have been thrown to the wayside in order to endeavor toward something else? Do they still have an impact? How does our ability to change our minds construct our existence? What happens within ourselves when we decide that we’re following a dream that we no longer want to follow? Should we continue to follow the dream and see it to an end, or abandon it in search for something more captivating? Would chasing a dream in which we no longer harbor interest be considered a waste of time, or have we already wasted our time by chasing the dream in the first place? In abandoning the dream, are we to be considered quitters, or perceived as one who is capable of knowing and following his or her desires? When cutting one’s losses, can one be considered to be less successful?
Or how about the dreams that were not lost, but rather the ones we have chased through hell and high water, only to have them crashing down upon our heads as failures, slaps on our wrists for trying to achieve a level for which we are not destined? Could our failed dreams help to create us just as much as the dreams we’ve watched come to fruition?
What about our successes and our mistakes? What role have they on the persons we become? Is it not true that many a success comes to a bittersweet end and many a mistake has led to riches? When a reason to toast one minute becomes a reason to fight the next, how can one trust one’s own judgement, and to what extent does this lack of belief in ourselves play a role? What if we give ourselves over to endeavor completely– physically, emotionally and financially– and yet we still find ourselves at a loss? May it be said that our failure is not due to lack of effort, and that it should be attributed to something else entirely?
And what of effort? Is it really true that effort and unshakable will are all one needs in order to succeed in obtaining ones objectives? From where does this well of effort come? Is it instilled in us by our parents? Is it genetic? Is it a gift from the heavens? Can we learn to replenish the pool of effort when it begins to dwindle? Can it be said that some people put effort into their lives, while others aren’t even trying? Or that most people don’t “try hard enough” and are then damned to pedestrian lives? And if this is the case, how does one judge whether one life is more successful than the next?
Can our unshakable will lead to our demise and our failure? For instance, was Robert E. Lee’s failure to take Cemetery Hill during the U. S. Civil War a result of his lack of effort or was it that he couldn’t shake his own will enough to quit while he was ahead, before the slaughter occurred? Can this not be called bullheadedness? At what point should we shake our wills, give up on our current pursuit and follow a different path? If we do give up before an actual tragedy occurs, do we silently begin to resign ourselves over to a middling existence, or can we legally make concessions? Do the resignations we make pile up upon themselves within our psyche, eventually undermining our desires? If so, how do we know which goals are safe to write off– which goals won’t come back to stab us in the back?
“Look, I’ve never had a dream in my life
Because a dream is what you wanna do, but still haven’t pursued
I knew what I wanted and did it till it was done
So I’ve been the dream that I wanted to be since day one!”
Aesop Rock’s No Regrets