Friday, June 08, 2007

The Godfather and C.S. Lewis???

A few days ago, I finished Mario Puzo's The Godfather. I don't feel any need to discuss the plot, since it was pretty accurately adapted to the big screen. The book may not be quite the classic that the film is, but it was one of the better books I've read.

Toward the end of the book, the narrator explains "Many young men start[] down a false path to their true destiny. Time and fortune usually set them aright." That's what I want to talk about.

Growing up Baptist, I didn't believe much in "true destiny." Nor was I taught to believe in "fortune," but everybody does anyway. In fact, I kinda view destiny as a theory for the lazy: just sit back and let destiny make you who you're going to be. But it occurs to me now that my destiny may be shaped by the very fact that I think a lot about who I'll be in ten years. Maybe that's "fortune's" effect on my life: I had the fortune of being a thinker and a dreamer. Maybe it's my destiny to ponder the imponderables.

But I want to know: do any of my readers believe in destiny? And if so, what do you think of it? Do you think destiny refers to a station in life? a series of events? Can you miss your destiny? Are we born who we'll be when we die? or does destiny shape us as we grow?

What do I think about destiny? I tend to agree with what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce: free will is a bigger truth than predestination. I'm not sure what that means, but I think I like it.


Yee said...

It depends. Are you talking about life after death or about our lives? I'm Calvinist so I believe in predestination - there are the elect and the non-elect which only God's grace divides. Because we can't really do anything to affect our election, we have free will to that extent. We can choose to be good creatures or bad. Many Calvinists say that God's grace shows through and the elect are good people, but I've always questioned that - how do you know what God's grace looks like? How could you possibly fathom God's mind?

Of course, God being omnipotent means he knows everything you have done, are doing, will and can do. There's no TRUE free will, in my opinion. Not if God knows it and omnipotence means he does know it. He shapes everything and everyone. But we have the ILLUSION of free will and that, in my mind, is the most important. Those people who rest on their laurels and say that destiny will take them where they will ARE lazy. They're using an idea to justify their lack of action. I say, act and act well. So what if it's God's plan or not? He KNOWS, so why are you fretting about it? He's all-powerful and it'll happen as he wants it to happen. You just live your life in the best way possible. Your job is to make your life purposeful and to honor God - and I'm not just talking about Christians because even atheists can honor God by acting well in my opinion. Let God worry about The Plan.

Anonymous said...

I agree in luck and destiny, however, I also believe that "everything happens for a reason." God knows what we will do, as he is omnipotent, yet he also allows us free will to make our own choices- like many other things in life, this is a paradox.

Anonymous said...

Mikearoni here,

OK, I'll take the bait.

One Calvinist and one quasi/peudo-Arminian (see Google) respond to the question of destiny.

If there is such a thing as destiny, I think it has more to do with we start our journey than where we end it. I didn't choose my parents, or even my exact genetic combination or early life experiences. But i have made plenty of choices in my life that have made me the person i am today. there is a certain amount of original matter that i can't do anything about. but everyday i make small and big choices that dictate where i am going.

Of course, there are some things about our past that dictate to a certain degree about our future, too. for example, i'll never be the king of England, or an NBA star. Those options were never in my life path. There may be limits that come from our past (i.e. family, early childhood, even genetics) that foreclose certain possible futures, but otherwise, I don't believe in any all controlling force of destiny (by whatever name you call it). I've seen too much and experienced too much that was the result of my own choice to believe otherwise.

I think the belief in destiny (or divine will, or whatever other name) may arise from several sources. 1. People see what they want to see. they see things that happen, or maybe bad results they didn't want and try to make sense of it so they give it a name like destiny. 2. the choices other people make impact our lives in powerful and negative ways sometimes. 3. name your own reason.

Anyway, to answer your question. I, for one, do not believe in destiny. You take what you've got and make out of it what you can.

Craig Pankratz said...

My response to your question would be too long (and may spark more unwanted controversy). In the next few weeks, I'll post on my blog about why I believe we have free will and that free will is central to our existence.

ALV said...

Hmm... Well, I believe in the romantic notion of "destiny," but I don't think that it's in opposition to free will.

Really, my view of destiny is that so many things had to go exactly right for me to be where I am right now - For example, to meet Mr. ALV, I had to go to schools I hated so I would want to transfer to schools I (eventually) loved, and finally give in to my mother's desire for me to take debate so I could meet him on the high school debate team.

Both my parents had to have the perfect series of events so that a boy from New Mexico and a girl from Iowa would both end up working at the same company in Texas and meet.

My grandmother's first fiance's wife who was missing and assumed dead had to come back and find her husband, and her second fiance had to die, all so that grandma would meet and marry my grandfather.

Mr. ALV's mother's first husband had to die so she'd meet and marry his father, and her second child needed to be miscarried so that she'd be able to get pregnant again and have her son.

I don't believe that so many twists and turns can work out perfectly just by chance - I think that there's some greater plan that keeps things from spiraling too far off the right path. I think that God knows the perfect plan for me, and will do His best to keep me on that path by giving my grace and guiding me - but will only guide me as much as I'll let Him.

I have the choice to reject His perfect plan - that's where free will comes in, and I do stumble and lose my way all the time - but as long as I also use my free will to strive back towards that plan, everything turns out the way it's supposed to be - and this "perfect plan" or "the way it's supposed to be" is my idea of destiny.

v said...

Well I think there’s a reason the destiny v. free will question is such a popular theme in literature. Think back to the works of Shakespeare, Oedipus Rex or even the Bible (if you want to consider the Bible as literature, but I don’t want to get into that debate right now).

One of my favorite plays that deals with this question is Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.” How much responsibility do the characters have for their own actions when the plot has been predetermined? One answer is that “Wheels have been set in motion, and they have their own pace, to which we are...condemned.” Another answer is that there is some room for free will–however limited: “We are comparatively least we are presented with alternatives.”

See also Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author”: the Leading Man says to the Manager, “Excuse me, but must I absolutely wear a cook’s cap?” to which the Manager replies, “I imagine so. It says so there anyway.” (pointing to “the book”/script), indicating, that if it’s written, it must be so. Yet the six characters arrive, to the Manager’s incredulity, without a script: “The drama is in us, and we are the drama. We are impatient to play it. Our inner passion drives us on to this.” But on the other hand, “We act that role for which we have been cast, that role which we are given in life.” The question is, who is the author? Ourselves? God or another Supreme Being? Are we actors who can take on different roles? Or are we characters, destined to live out a certain path? Can our reality change from one day to another or is it that our reality cannot change, “because it’s already fixed for ever”?

I don’t really have an answer, but this is one that I like:

“Authors, as a rule, hide the labour of their creations. When the characters are really alive before their author, the latter does nothing but follow them in their action, in their words, in the situations which they suggest to him; and he has to will them the way they will themselves–for there’s trouble if he doesn’t. When a character is born, he acquires at once such an independence, even of his own author, that he can be imagined by everybody even in many other situations where the author never dreamed of placing him; and so he acquires for himself a meaning which the author never thought of giving him.”