Sometimes I have these deep philosophical moments and I ponder life ‘s mysteries, such as the path our lives take. What or who determines how our lives turn out. Is it solely us or is it the God, destiny or just luck, the environment where we live in, or is it the people we have in our lives such as our parents, siblings, kids and our friends? Or do those forces co-exist in some kind of orchestrated performance that is our life? And what part do we ourselves play in all this?
These are big questions and we usually answer them, either silently in our minds or speaking out loud, much depending on the lenses we wear at the moment, or the outlook we have from our vantage point. I don’t pretend to have the answers, only a few fragmented thoughts that have gradually emerged, and have influenced some of the choices I’ve made in life.
I believe that the first determinant that plays a role in our lives is the global lottery: where on our earth we are born. The society, culture, climate and the economic conditions of our birth place, all merged together, frame much of our lives, at the minimum during our younger years. Their influence may reach far into our adulthood and often over whole life spans, which are also bound to be shorter or longer depending on where we were born. So we all start our life performances on very different stages.
The second factor that tends to influence our path in life is our family, which we don’t choose – at least consciously once we are here. Family members are the key players early in the play. Some of us have a family, others don’t and yet others lose their family or part of it early in life. Then there is the issue of quality. Needless to say that some families, even if intact, do not provide a healthy and supportive environment to grow up in. This first set of characters for some of us is stable, and for others unstable or nonexistent.
Then we become adults and can steer our lives in whatever direction we desire, or so we sometimes think. The opportunities to change the circumstances given to us at birth and the cast of characters in our play are vastly different from one continent and country to another. Sometimes even from one village or family to another. If we were born to a wealthy family in, say New York, or to a poor family, say, in a small village in Somalia, would we have the same opportunities to shape our lives if/when we reached adulthood? I think most of us would say that the options available for shaping our lives are vastly different based on the stage and the set of players given to us. It would be naive to think that “everyone makes his own fortune” in the same way, as an old saying goes.
Once we mature, I think most of us try to make the best of the pieces given to us, whatever the stage. Sometimes we can change the stage and other times we can change the players. What are then the key things or ingredients that can help us in this endeavour?
I would start with hope. It’s an emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to circumstances in our lives. Hope helps us to take action to overcome adversity. It helps us to remain more positive in the now and in looking forward. If hope is a necessary ingredient in shaping our path in life, how do we get it? I would say that there are several possible contributors to having hope. To me, one contributor would be a strong faith in a higher power from which we can gain inner strength and comfort. Another important factor would be the support we receive from our fellow travellers, whether in our close cast of characters or others.
Second, I think we need courage and determination to overcome adversity – of whatever kind – we’ll meet on our path. Courage is often required to take action to change our circumstances, and to jump on the opportunities presented to us. And determination helps us in keeping at it and not giving up when we meet obstacles.
However, to think that we could control everything in our lives would be a mistake. Such a belief is bound to lead to disappointments and lots of worrying. We should just do our best, try to make the right choices and stay as positive as possible in order not to attract negative events to cross our path. And then relax in the knowledge that the path will open for us to walk on.
My last point would be on the support we provide to others. Do we just care about those players closest to us, or do we also care about those fellow travellers whose stage was not set up as neatly as ours? I believe that one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences on our path is to find a way to also support those not in our immediate cast of characters, help them to find hope. This can be done at many levels: at individual, community of country level. And such actions will certainly shine more light on our own path as well.