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The Problem With Destiny -- How It Could be Risky

Updated: Jun 28

A lonely child

Arguably, the most problematic type of individuals are those who believe that they are guided by some kind of mystical force called "destiny," which they perceive as so powerful that it can protect them in times of distress. It in theory could make them problematic because they might take more unnecessary risk, under the belief that they are guided by the hands of fate. As a result, people would evitably suffer from their misadventures.

This same concept is often depicted in works of fiction, where it is referred to as "plot armor." Plot armor simply means that one or more characters are deemed too important to die at a particular point in the story, and therefore, they will not die, even in situations where their demise is highly probable.

The flawed reasoning behind the belief that we are "destined" to accomplish things is quite straightforward. Regardless of whether you are an ordinary clerk or someone destined to discover the cure for cancer, if a tank were to suddenly appear and run over both of you, you would both likely perish.

The clerk's low social status in society compared to that of the future cancer cure inventor is irrelevant in this scenario. The future-cure-inventor will not be saved from the tank's weight, just because his potential contribution is more important to humanity. Accidents, along with other unpredictable events, do not discriminate between individuals based on their perceived level of importance or potential impact on the world.

The concept of "destiny" is problematic because it suggests that certain individuals are immune/more resilient to death or misfortune due to their perceived future achievements or importance. This notion is flawed because death is an inevitable reality that can strike anyone, regardless of their perceived potential or role in the world. Even if someone is deemed to have a significant "destiny" to fulfill, they are still susceptible to the same accidents, illnesses, or unforeseen circumstances that could befall anyone else.

The idea of "plot armor" often found in fictional works further reinforces this unrealistic perception of invulnerability. Fictional characters may be protected from harm or death due to their importance to the storyline, but this concept does not translate to real life. In the real world, there are no guarantees, and even the most extraordinary individuals are not exempt from the unpredictability of life.

It is why reality can, most often than not, disappoint, or subvert our expectations in any way realistically possible. We can do so ourselves as well, for we too are part of this reality.

This is one of the reasons why some people may find fictional narratives unrealistic. The predictability and artificial nature of certain storylines can clash with our understanding of the real world, where outcomes are often uncertain and not always aligned with our expectations.

Whether someone is a celebrated figure like Mother Teresa or an ordinary merchant, they are equally susceptible to the laws of physics and the unpredictable nature of life (AKA, being crushed by a tank, for example). No amount of perceived destiny or importance can shield them from the consequences of accidents, illnesses, or unforeseen circumstances of any kind.

Why, then, complain that things are not the way "they are supposed to be"? Why would you think that things will necessarily go according to some intended plan?

The reality is that with each passing moment, we are all at risk of death. Our potential, however great, can be rendered useless and wasted in the face of life's unpredictable events. Unlike fictional heroes with plot armor, we do not have the luxury of knowing that our "destiny" will be fulfilled.

In the face of this uncertainty, what truly matters is our ability to appreciate and make the most of each day, recognizing that our time on this earth is finite, and therefore, limited in a potential that is gradually reduced by time. While we cannot control the events that may befall us, we can choose to live meaningfully, per our attempted plans, cherishing the moments we have, and prepare for the uncertainty of existence.

The notion of "being destined for greatness" can be a source of comfort and motivation, but its value diminishes when we consider the fragility of life. I once had a casual acquaintance who lost a sister under tragic circumstances. Her grandfather, having stepped out for a brief moment, returned to find her sister's lifeless body.

There was no indication of suicide; her death was simply an unfortunate twist of fate. Did this mean she was somehow less worthy of life than others? Certainly not. With billions of people on this planet, any one of us could have met a similar fate. Yet, we continue to live, regardless of our perceived expendability.

I have come to question the concept of a predetermined destiny for greatness, as it provides no guarantee of survival. No angels or spirits will shield me from fatal harm if I were to be struck by a car or (yes, again..) crushed by a tank. The supposed greatness of my destiny will not protect me from sudden death. No one is so important in this world to be bestowed with an impenetrable shield, such as the plot armor found in fictional works.

Therefore, we should not let the pursuit of an undefined destiny justify unhealthy or unsafe behaviors. Instead, we should prioritize our well-being and take steps to enhance our health, strength, and safety. These measures will undoubtedly increase our chances of survival far more than any virtue related to perceived destiny. Once we have established a greater degree of survivability, we can then focus on fulfilling our potential in life. While greater security in life does not ensure the avoidance of evitable death, it can surely reduce it.

In this uncertain existence, survivability is the only realistic alternative to the fictional concept of plot armor. Its real life counterpart are unproven beliefs of above-than-average destiny. To optimize our potential, we must strive to extend our lifespan. Even world leaders, who may seem invincible, are not immune to sudden death, and can die at any time, just like any other person.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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