Fate Is Binary, and Yet…

The beautiful thing about fate, should you choose to believe in it, is that you can’t possibly get it wrong. It’s fate, after all! Any mistakes you make along the way are as meant to be as your successes.

And if you don’t believe in fate? In that case, every outcome in your life will go back either to an unbroken chain of rational, logical conclusions or the cold, random indifference of the universe — but at least you get to exercise free will 100% of the time.

Humans have spent centuries arguing about which of these two ends of the same spectrum reflects the reality we live in, but you know what’s funny? Unless you consider fate to be a playful being, they amount to the same thing.

If fate was this grim, ruthless entity stringing up your life’s events in perfect sequence, it’d be no different from a robot. What’s the difference between your outcomes going back to logic and physics or a fate factory cranking out your journey in perfect, interchangeable Lego blocks?

This is a great irony: If you don’t allow for some element of chance in fate, a belief in fate is self-defeating. It’s the kind of paradox only life can write, and I think it is wonderful — because what it means is that fate is not a set of train tracks we are set upon, destined to go only one place and reach it via only one means. Instead, fate is more like a conversation.

In this conversation, we are like a child talking to an adult, trying to learn the language. Initially, the child has no idea what the words mean, why they sound like they sound, and which ones go together when for what reason. The adult, however, has spoken the language all their life, and so, sooner or later, the child will get the joke. Even if the adult must explain things over and over again, eventually, something will click.

Of course, some ideas land faster than others. Easy words the child can pick up quickly; certain idioms might take decades to understand. And if an important phrase won’t make it to the child’s neocortex? Sometimes, the adult gets fed up. “Well, that just means what it means, and you’ll have to get used to it.” Not everything will be explained. Those are the times when fate hits us over the head with an event we can barely comprehend, like a business partner betraying us or, if we’re lucky, a lottery win.

The point is that fate gets to have fun. It knows infinitely more than we do, and it won’t just hand it all to us on a silver platter. On some days, fate feels mischievous. It will deliberately taunt us to see if we’ll get the joke. On other days, it knows you must come to the realization on your own, and it’ll just sit there waiting, bored out of its mind.

Regardless how long and winding the road, however, fate will never stop talking to you, for it is also infinitely patient. It knows there is no chance in hell a puny human like you can prevent the ultimate outcome it has planned for you. So why rush? Let’s enjoy the journey.

Now, a child learning a language from an adult has two options: She can trot along, drag her feet, and take every lesson with slouching shoulders, or she can play along, literally. What do you think a child would do? She would participate, of course! She would answer fate’s playfulness with her own, doing her best to understand, have fun, and express herself originally — and only then would the conversation ever truly get going.

Personally, it took me a quarter of a century of no longer being a child to finally remember what I already knew: I’m a tiny human, and I usually don’t know which parts of life are fate and which ones I caused entirely on my own. But it also doesn’t matter, because every day, I just try to do the best I can with what I have — and to have as much fun as possible along the way.

Whether you believe in fate or not, please do believe in this: The key to a joyful life is playfulness, and it is never too late to join the game.