To the ancients, it was called fate and destiny; to us moderns, it’s called genetics and neuroscience. Regardless, the principles are identical: our lot in life is decided, and no matter how much we oppose it or what we do to resist it, it’s going to happen all the same.
Regardless of whether this is absolutely true, there is obviously some degreeof truth to it. What interests me is not to which degree the concept of destiny holds true; what interests me is what it takes to resist it.
Men of small minds, weak will or outright cowardice are prone to accept things as they are, perhaps rationalizing away their spiritual decrepitude or otherwise resigning to mere bitching and whining.
On the other hand, men of valor, of will, or sheer orneriness will combat that to which fate would otherwise consign them.
That a man takes on his fate cannot be fated, as it is the faith in some sort of free will that would compel him to do what he does. Only the man whose faith is in fatalism can be said to be fated to his fate.
So what makes a man decide to wrestle with destiny?
First, he must have sufficient awareness of what his fate is. Upon seeing the trajectory of his life, and seeing pitfalls ahead, he will decide he wishes to correct course.
Second, he must have the will to persevere in correcting his course, and the courage to fail time and time again.
Correcting one’s course in life is not easy.
He must get brawny. Where brawn fails, he must get brainy. Where brains fail, he must seek assistance. In no case is failure an option; if he chooses to move mountains, mountains shall be moved. Between man’s will and the relentless force of fate, the man of will insists he is master of his own destiny.
And what applies to individual men applies equally to a people and their nations. Are we a nation of fatalists, or a nation of willful men?
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
– Theodore Roosevelt, excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910