Tag Archives: free will

Thou Mayest.

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“After two years we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too—‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Do thou.’ And this was the gold from our mining: ‘Thou mayest.’ ‘Thou mayest rule over sin.’ The old gentlemen smiled and nodded and felt the years were well spent. It brought them out of their Chinese shells too, and right now they are studying Greek.”
Samuel said, “It’s a fantastic story. And I’ve tried to follow and maybe I’ve missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?”
Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’”
– John Steinbeck, East of Eden

East of Eden is my favorite book of all time, and I knew the moment I first read these three paragraphs that I had encountered something profound. I think the words “thou mayest” are emblematic of the balance of free will, equal parts all-encompassing possibility and personal morality, and that’s an emblem I don’t mind having on my body forever. 2012 was the year of no regrets, and getting my first tattoo hasn’t upset the year’s theme: I love my tattoo, and I’m glad I did it. Now, on to the next.

My tattoo was done by Chris at Liberty Tattoo in Seattle, Washington.

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Fatalism on a Tuesday Morning.

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While I was catching up on my blog reading this morning, I came across a very interesting post by Apocalypstick about how she met her boyfriend on Google+ and now it’s got me thinking about fate and whether or not it exists. If you’ll allow it, I’ll walk you through my thought process here. (If you won’t allow it, sorry I can’t hear you, and I’mma do it anyway.)

Just to make sure I was thinking about fate in the correct context, I looked up a dictionary definition of the word and found exactly what I suspected, and what I dislike most about the idea of fate: in each definition, it is described as pertaining to the unfolding of life events, an unfolding that is seen as outside of an individual’s control. I, with all of my self-reliance and free will, have a difficult time believing that there are certain things that won’t bend to my will. As much as that’s true, however, I can’t deny that sometimes life throws you curveballs that can’t be avoided or helped; that is where an individual’s lack of control lies. So maybe in that regard I believe in fate a bit, but I think our ability as humans to step up to the plate and work with what’s being thrown at us is a testament to at least some degree of control. We always have the power of choice, to either play ball or throw in the towel and be pissed that Fate wasn’t more kind to us. Aaaaaaand, this baseball metaphor is getting tired, so I’m going to just kill it now.

Whenever I think about fate, I think of Romeo Montague, in the wake of slaying Juliet’s cousin and any chance he had of being with her, screaming into the ether “I am Fortune’s fool!” I always found this statement moronic because it’s not like someone held a gun to his head (even though guns didn’t exist back then) and forced him to kill Tybalt: he did it of his own free will, misguided as it may have been, and there were ways he could have avoided being in a situation where he might MURDER SOMEONE WHO IS RELATED TO HIS LOVER. I try to cut Romeo some slack because he was a teenage boy running on horomones, but it’s inconceivable to me that he could see himself as a victim in all of this.

That Shakespearean bit may seem tangential, but it serves to point out that fatalism is kind of in keeping with passivity. And to put it succinctly, I don’t want to be the kind of person who just sits back and lets life happen to them. I wholeheartedly believe that I’m the master of my own destiny, but that is an active choice in itself.

To me, Fate seems less like ultimate truth and more like an algebra equation, where, through trial and error, we try to solve for x (x being happiness or love or vocation or what have you) until the equation makes sense, and not in a mathematical way, but to you as an individual. I believe that things happen for a reason, but I refuse to believe that the architecture of my life is being built by anyone other than me or that there is a master blueprint somewhere that I’m unaware of. I’ve believed that I’d solved for x before, but what I didn’t take into consideration is that x is fluid; it changes, and I have the power to direct what form it takes with every choice I make. If I know what x isn’t, that only brings me a step closer to finding out what x is. I’m figuring it out as I go along, steadily pursuing a lovely albeit foggy visage, of my own making, of what my Fate could be.

In summation, if I believe in Fate, I believe in me.