Being Authentic – An Introduction to Section IV


Fate is not a punishment.

- Albert Camus

hen I was young, my mom taught us kids a seemingly silly game that could be called The Fate Game. The person who was “it” would describe a scenario that, on the face of it, was awful. The “not it” person would say “Oh. That’s bad.” The “It” player would then reply with “No. That’s good because…” and would complete the ellipsis with a positive twist to the story. The “not it” person would then reply “Oh. That’s good.” You can see where this is going:

It: I fell down on the way home from school and skinned my knee.

Not it: Oh. That’s bad.

It: No. That’s good because while I was sitting there on the ground, a cute little puppy came running up to me.

Not it: Oh. That’s good.

It: No that’s bad because the puppy knocked me over, and my glasses fell off and into the street.

Not it: Oh. That’s bad.

It: No. That’s good because…

We three sisters would all become enthralled with twisting Fate back and forth with more and more elaborate scenarios. There’s no doubt, looking back, that what we enjoyed most was being in charge of Fate.

Wouldn’t all of us like to be in charge of Fate? Don’t we all believe that we know what is good luck and bad?


Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives

- David Eagleman

The Denial of Death

- Ernest Becker

Susan B. Anthony: A Biography of a Singular Feminist

- Kathleen Barry

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

- Doris Kearns Goodwin


Feckless thug

Is Fate a feckless thug, a fickle finger, a message from the gods, a random act of an indifferent cosmos? As The Fate Game demonstrates, it is probably wise to adopt a fluid sense of this aspect of human awareness. Our tendency, however, is to link the word “Fate” with the word “doom.”

Fate may not be a punishment, but it can oftentimes feel like it. Who among us hasn’t lamented, “What did I do to deserve this?” Few of us escape the tendency to exclaim at the unfairness of things – both for ourselves and for others. Indeed, fully a third of our little emoji faces could be described as “whining.”

This inclination to wail in the face of Fate doesn’t necessarily indicate a neurotic immaturity on our part, but it probably does reflect a lack of understanding about how our attitude toward Fate can affect our resilience.

Now, please pardon my need to reiterate the self-construction message “knowledge equals increased resolve not resignation.” Enhancing existential sangfroid is the drum that beats true to my way of thinking. Nowhere is this attitude more on the mark than with the existential given of Fate.

Self-made man vs. one lucky fella

In the current Western culture, Fate is a known enemy, something to overcome through grit. We pick our direction and set out, alone, to make our fortune. Further, we are supposed to know exactly what is good luck and bad luck, and our job is to seek the former and avoid the latter. Can you see how this is a con job?

For one thing, Fate occurs within a cultural framework. Where we are embedded determines in large part what feels lucky and what feels unlucky. Again, in the current Western culture, good luck is anything that brings you fame and fortune.

For another, no human is truly in position to determine the adjective modifying the word “Fate.” We can never know how our lives would be different/worse/better if the things that had happened to us had happened differently.

And, finally, we humans are powerless when it comes to avoiding Fate. It can slip into our lives in countless ways, derailing the best-laid plans. To pretend otherwise sets us up for a particularly problematic estrangement from ourselves. In other words, how can we want what we want when we can be whipsawed by Fate? That’s good, no that’s bad...

What the patriarchy does in the face of these three truths is deny, deny, deny. It wraps the self-made man myth around anyone who is successful and minimizes the one lucky fella aspect of success.

If our unrealistic expectations for a life-through-grit “success” can be replaced with a balanced and flexible perspective on the role of Fate in the lives of everyone, we can then sidestep this detour into seeking a grit-based solution to life. Put another way – we really, really, really need to understand that the successful aren’t better people than the less successful. They are just very, very, very lucky.

Once we learn to tolerate the hand we are being dealt daily with grace and curiosity, we will be better suited to move resolutely and resiliently through life. Which is, of course, a good definition of courage – the ability to steadfastly and honestly face the difficulty of being at the whim of Fate.

There’s no doubt that Fate can be punishing, but it’s not a punishment.

This section of the website does not, however, offer a stiff-upper-lip revival meeting. It presents, rather, a grouping of articles describing the various truths that can help us cleanse our relationship with Fate. By this I mean, these articles can help you rebut toxic beliefs such as how easy it is to accomplish goals, how success suggests that you’re a good person, how mistakes and symptoms suggest you’re a bad person, and so on. Fatuous cultural mythology that links virtue with victory and that minimizes the role Fate has in every life needs to be replaced with an informed sense of the existential difficulties facing us all – every day, all day. That clarity of thought can return you to your natural level of emotional stability – the fourth component of resilience – which in turn will empower you to make the difficult choices needed to create a more authentic life for yourself.

Section IV overview

What is the hallmark of a healthy relationship with Fate? A high tolerance for truth. All the articles in this section of the website exalt the difficult truths that our squirrely cultures would have us ignore. No feminist or existentialist would urge us to back away from hard thinking. They urge, instead, resolute inching toward the robust health possible to all humans who can face the tough givens of life. Facing Fate is no exception.

The Moxie of Truth, the first article in this section, expands the above argument to include the twin beliefs so ennobled by existentialists: humans are definitely created with more than enough mental horsepower to be able to handle difficult truths; and they are much more effective agents in the designing of their lives when they do so.

The title of the second article in this section – Life is Difficult – kind of says it all.

The article entitled Myth, Choice, Truth addresses our need to observe and decipher the myriad stories that were presented to us as "truth" during our formative years. A huge area of overlap between the existential writers and the feminist thinkers is the belief that we all live in toxic cultures. They agree further that we are responsible for uncovering the mythology underlying the current cultural climate and deciding for ourselves which parts make sense to us and which don’t. We will want to function effectively within our world, but not at the cost of our integrity. In other words, when it comes to cultures we need to think globally, act locally because the personal is political!

Another way folks get turned around by Fate concerns their shame-based relationship with two boogeymen that plague humans: mistakes and symptoms. Both precipitate panic in us causing us to want to distance ourselves from them as quickly as we possibly can. As you can imagine, a wiser way to address these two unavoidable realities is to learn from them.

To Err Really Is Human: What to Make of Mistakes is an article that, quite frankly, tries to hammer home a sentiment too often given only lip service in our early years – you are supposed to make mistakes as you progress through life. If you aren’t making mistakes, you are sticking too close to the shore.

Symptoms: It’s All Good provides another surprising look at better ways to make effective, lasting changes in your life. It is both reassuring and challenging to realize that using symptoms as data rather than a character indictment will get you much further along in your efforts to both heal and grow.

Foundations of Solid Self-Esteem provides a much-needed outline of all the work that goes into the repair and maintenance of a robust belief in our ability to navigate through life no matter what Fate decides it wants to do with us. This article is a doozy, but who doesn’t want a buff and shiny self-esteem?

Was That Nice? provides the reader with a careful look at how sloppy thinking can create sloppy behavior. To the extent we more completely understand distinct characteristics of psychological constructs, the more easily we can adjust our behavior to align with our deepest values. This article uses the difference between being nice and being kind as a sampling of the power available in clarified thinking.

I’ve always liked the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” The penultimate article in this section, Absent Minded, outlines a number of truths about memory that can help many of us relax our fears around losing our minds. While there are behaviors we need to put in place to protect those marvelous brains of ours, forgetting your sister’s birthday doesn’t necessarily signal the end of your cognitive health. Your mind probably ain’t broke, so no need to fix it.

And, finally, Triumph in the Game of Life presents some options for gathering the external feedback that our world has to offer. It provides a commentary on how winning, losing and being chosen can each contribute to our understanding of how we are doing in life.

We all want to live as authentically as we can even when – or maybe especially when – Fate drops a bomb (good or bad) into our lives. And our death is, of course, the ultimate challenge that Fate presents to us. As we strengthen our relationship with Fate, we also buttress our courage in the face of our death.

When we can remember that this fourth dimension of time, death, is an important one to integrate into our daily thinking, we will be much more likely to put some urgency behind making our next move.

I’ll end this introduction with a stirring quote from the wordsmith Ralph Waldo Emerson:

And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity, and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster.

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

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