Character Is Fate

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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. 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...
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