I recently finished reading Fate and Destiny: The Two Agreements of the Soul by mythologist and storyteller, Michael Meade. In the book, Meade posits that one can only find one's destiny by first embracing one's fate, but that, while fate is impossible to escape, people often become enmired in it, wrongly assuming that fate and destiny are the same thing.
Woven throughout the book are numerous traditional myths and folktales from around the world that, in Meade's skillful narration, become soul maps for traversing the perils and opportunities of a fully lived life and, ultimately, arriving at one's destiny.
Because the developed world is time-centric, we are under the illusion that things move from a beginning to an ending point in an orderly fashion.
Storytellers, though, know that one of the things that makes stories so powerful is that they don't always follow linear convention. What may seem like a horrible fate when one can only look forward may be seen from the vantage point of destiny to have contained within it a "pearl of great price."
I wrote a poem about this phenomenon that was published in the West Marin Review a few years back.
I KNOW THREE THINGS
I know three things:
That which is will be.
That which will be was.
That which was is.
I dreamed I was awake.
The hair on my head grew grey
And the flesh sagged on my bones.
I turned on my side
Tucking into myself like a mother
Curls around her baby
And found another dream.
Yesterday my beehive erupted.
The old queen left with the restless ones,
Those who yearned for
A land just beyond the imagination.
Those who stayed will make a new queen
From the sweet nectar of their bodies.
Sometimes the Ancestors visit me.
They’re always happy to come.
We talk about old things
To see if they matter anymore.
Yes, in some regards our fate is thrust upon us. But the story we choose to make from these raw materials is up to us. Like the three medieval stonecutters in the old story who are asked by a passer-by what they are doing, you can reasonably respond, as the first man did, that you are cutting stone. Or if you see a bit beyond that, as did the second, you'll say you're building a wall. But when you can respond, as did the third man, "I am building a cathedral," you have left the story of your fate behind and moved to embrace your destiny.