I like four-letter words, not the f-word that’s common on reality TV and vulgar for sex that should only be used with love. But four-letter words are straight forward and they say a lot in one syllable. One such word is fate—meaning the supposed force, principle, or power that predetermines events. Its roots are Greek & Roman Mythology The three Fates goddesses, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who control human destiny.
Today, I got an email, the most recent of Gloria describing her bus ride on the Indiana Turnpike en route to the O’Hare Airport where she caught a plane to Auckland to spend a two months in southern climate. Because I grew up in that terrain and suffered automobile accidents on more than one occasion, I present this as a contradictory example of what some might say is fate—that everything has a reason:
“It was this left lane on which huge semi-tractor trailer trucks whizzed past us as if they were traveling on dry pavement. I wondered at them for maintaining such high speeds but they’re professional truck drivers and they know what they’re doing, right? They drive under these conditions more often than the rest of us and so I relaxed and enjoyed the chatty company of an Orthodox Christian seminary student who sat next to me on the bus as we headed toward the Indiana-Illinois state line. It was at the state line where things became interesting, thanks to the lake effect snowfall that is worse in that area than it is in South Bend. (Middlebury, mercifully, is 60 miles from Lake Michigan and is thus spared most of that wintertime trauma.)
“Our bus driver slowed down as we passed by our first huge semi-tractor trailer wreck—a jackknife that blocked both lanes heading east. Behind him, two lanes of traffic were backed up for almost two miles. The police hadn’t arrived yet but we could hear that they were on their way. We counted ourselves lucky.
“Then, further on down the road, we saw two more jackknifed trucks—the one on our side of the toll road (mercifully for us) was completely off the road and lying with its trailer on its side. State police had cordoned off the right lane and so we funneled our way past the accident. By now the semis had stopped passing us and were traveling with us in our lane.
“Between the state line and O’Hare airport, we counted a total of ten wrecked and jackknifed semis—one of the wrecks had its tractor upright but its trailer had snapped off and lay flipped upside down on its top.”
Fate is used to explain such tragedy. Common sense tells us that those trucks wouldn’t have jack-knifed if their drivers had had the good sense to stay off icy roads or at the very least to have slowed to a crawl.
So how does FATE differ from the five-letter word FAITH? Faith (n.) Its common definition is “belief or trust: belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It’s permissible to scoff at the foolish belief that fate destines—predetermines some outcome, possible the one who would become a soul-mate or doom scenario of calamity. In short as the title of this post suggests: Fate is fiction. However, it’s not politically or religiously correct to say, Faith is fiction any more than it’s socially acceptable to say the Pope is fallible.
Only one of our forefathers, such as Benjamin Franklin, who had wit and wisdom could deftly imply that, as he did at the close of the Constitutional Convention. Two years before his death in 1790, he was too weak to make his plea for a unanimous signing of the constitution by those who has sweat its birth for four summer months in Philadelphia and had it read for him by James Wilson. It his effort to make the point that the document was the best possible at that time, he argued he would vote for it despite that he “did not completely approve of this Constitution at present.” And he went on to assert that infallible is not an appropriate word for even those who claim to be by using two examples:
“Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said ‘I don't know how it happens, Sister but I meet with nobody but myself, that's always in the right — Il n'y a que moi qui a toujours raison.’"
Are we not mature enough as a people to admit that there is not a reason for everything--Fate is fiction and so is faith?