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By Katie Marshall
Have you ever been nervous to open a fortune cookie?
You are smart. Intelligent. Fact-based. Your belief system is rooted in empirical evidence and reasoning and yet this cookie, this tiny flaky thing, was put in front of you, for you. It holds some answer you’re afraid to hear but need to know.
Life is the culmination of the small moments – didn’t you read that somewhere, learn that some time, reblog or retweet or agree to it at one time or another? You did, of course you did, because it is real and true and now here you are, holding a small thing with a big impact, ready to be changed.
Destiny is a moving target. We define it in motion. We determine the importance of a moment either immediately or in retrospect. If you go on an audition and you are #18 in line and 18 is your lucky number and then you get the part, the number you were in line feels significant. However, if you are #34 in line and you get the part, the number doesn’t really register as important unless you decide then and there to switch lucky numbers based on the fact that you were #34 and you got the part. Further, if you were #18 and you did not get the part, the number you were in line is hardly significant other than a passing thought. “My lucky number didn’t work this time” or, “Lucky numbers aren’t a real thing.” We define what is important to us as it happens to us or as we reflect on our experiences.
The key to defining an experience in the moment is awareness, specifically present moment awareness. This skill allows us to see everything as significant, everyone as important, and this moment as all we have – and we don’t even have it, really, we’re borrowing it with the understanding that it could be taken from us at any time. If present moment awareness feels difficult, good, you’re doing it right. It is a practiced and learned skill that requires constant practice. I have heard that it gets easier eventually. Keep at it.
The thing about fate is that whether we choose it for ourselves or it chooses us, we still want it to feel comforting, like a guide or affirmation. We want significant moments to point us somewhere. We beg them to tell us where to go. Or we follow them, hoping for the best or least hoping for something to happen so that we can prove that this was fate, this was significant, this was something or, really, that we were right. We look for lucky numbers and fortune cookies to confirm what we already believe or sometimes to shock us out of a funk. We want fate to take care of us by making our choices for us.
The important thing to remember about significant moments and fate in general is that no matter which way you see it, fate is a collection of choices. Moments are built from choices. We only see the full picture after we make a series of choices.
Stephen Hawking once said, “I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.” You may believe fate is out of your hands, already decided and set in stone for you. You may look for signs and direction. But you are still the one making the choices. There is going with the flow and there is agreeing with what life gives you, but there is also sitting so still that you begin to rot with indecision. If you feel stuck, you can get out of it. Whether you wait for someone to tell you or you go up and ask, fate will be there. What if your fate was what you chose?
The thing about fortune cookies is that sometimes you get a ridiculous one that means nothing, like, “You had a good meal” or even ones that feel like lies, such as “You are good at balancing a budget :)”. But some of them feel like gospel, so important that you keep them in small alters at your desk and pressed in journals like flowers. The one you’re holding now feels like it’s got the answers. You’re ready to follow its lead.
You crack it open. It reads:
“You will discover the truth in time.”
An answer without a solution. A map without directions. A fate that leaves you to decide.
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