One of O V Vijayan’s characters narrates a parable to show how we may not be able to alter our destiny, not much at least.
A bullock, one of a pair used for drawing a cart, prayed, “Oh God, why did you give me this destiny? You have not only made me a cart-bullock but also fixed my place on the right side of the cart. The driver uses his whip relentlessly and it is on my back it falls all the time. If you can’t alter my destiny of being a cart-bullock, at least change my place from the right to the left side.”
God decided to grant the wish. The bullocks and the cart were sold on the same day. The new owner placed the bullock on the left side. And the new driver was left-handed.
Well, I really don’t think that our destiny is entirely out of our control. Some things are beyond our control, but some are certainly within control. For example, Mark Antony’s meeting with Cleopatra might have been beyond his control, but choosing to let Rome melt in the Tiber of his lust was his choice. Or should we say that the lust was in his genes and the genes were not his choice? Such a line of argument will lead us to absolute determinism, and then we will be nothing more than puppets in the hands of destiny.
I accept the view of the Existentialists that we mould our destiny to a large extent by the choices we make.
Sometimes we may feel like Vijayan’s bullock, unable to make any meaningful choice. We can, then, alter our attitude to the given destiny. Like Sisyphus*, we can take the boulder as a challenge, or we can even fall in love with the boulder. Even Sisyphus is not without choices, you see.
*Note: Sisyphus is the Greek mythological hero who was punished by gods to roll a boulder to the zenith of a hill. But just before he touched the zenith, the gods would push the boulder down. French philosopher and novelist, Albert Camus, wrote a brilliant essay titled ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ in which Camus argued that our life was not much different from what Sisyphus was condemned to do. But how we carry out the task of living is our choice.