Intellect annuls fate. So far as a man thinks, he is free. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
What does that mean?
I don’t want to debate the deeper philosophical meaning of free will in this post. Whole forests have been laid waste to fill libraries with tomes from the great minds of this argument. I have neither the depth nor the time to cover that aspect of the quote.
Instead, I wish to consider the thinking and planning a mind of some intellect can manage, and how that confers a form of freedom compared to the mind that simply reacts to stimulus in the patterns it has already determined to be beneficial.
With deliberate thought, you can accomplish amazing things, in conjunction with appropriate effort, that is. Contrast that with those who don’t think great thoughts, and who rarely accomplish great things. Those who don’t use their intellect, simply float down life’s river.
They are subject to currents and eddies, blown any which way, a victim of their fate. Those who use use their intellect, they build a raft, make oars or sails, and become the captain of their fate, at least to an extent. And in that, they are somewhat free. Free to try their luck, free to chart their own course. Free to escape fate. And free to fail.
Why is thinking important?
I started this paragraph about half a dozen times, with various smart-alack comments. But they aren’t really necessary, are they? If you are reading this, you have already shown some level of intellect. If you have been reading for any length of time, and taking part in the exercises, you have probably also used your intellect to alter your fate somewhat.
Besides what you have learned here, you have probably learned some useful ways to apply your mind to other problems. Whether from someone in your family, a teacher, coach, or friend, you have probably learned how to avoid something that others might call ‘fate’ or ‘bad luck,’ right?
By being able to either foresee the problem, or to think quickly once it became apparent, you avoided something that otherwise would have been your fate. This helps you stay free from the prison of habitual response, and of society in general. Society seems to prefer non-thinkers, as they are easier to manage.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Thinking, in the case of this quote, consists mostly of being sharp enough to notice something, and then coming up with a plan to best make use of the situation. It could be an opportunity to take advantage of, it could be a chance to help out, it could be advanced warning of an impending unpleasant outcome.
By noticing it, you set in motion a chain of events that (hopefully) “annuls fate.” While the term ‘fate’ normally has a negative connotation, it applies equally to good things as to bad things. It does have the implication that you either cannot avoid it, or it is what will happen if you do nothing to avoid it.
So, first you have to notice that something is happening. That’s mostly just paying attention. But paying attention to what? That depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for love, pay attention to the people you are interested in, and look for what you think are signs.
If you aren’t good at it already, you will eventually train yourself to recognise the more common signs. Then you can start formulating plans, and trying to move forward with things. Without your intellect (otherwise known as thinking), you risk the fate of being alone, right?
If what you’re looking for is business, you are probably looking for opportunities or ideas. Again, practice helps with noticing opportunities to best your fate. Then it’s a matter of thinking, and moving things forward from an idea to a product, and from there to market. Fate annulled again!
Yes, sometimes opportunities fall into your lap. But you can still be stuck with your fate if you don’t engage your brain, and think up something to do with the opportunity. That also takes a little practice. But you probably already do it in other aspects of your life.
Look around and consider where you are particularly good with your mind. Can you remember all of the lyrics to songs most people no longer remember? That is a form of thinking. If you are looking for phrases or ideas, you have a gold mine in your mind. Could you woo a lover or come up with a marketing slogan based on an idea spun out from a line of a song?
The world can be harsh and cold, but it is full of opportunity. I have always wanted to help others, to share knowledge, tips and ideas. I never saw blogging as a way of helping others, but I have received many e-mails and a few comments that have let me know that my work here is worth-while. I’m not sure this will rescue me from a fate of obscurity, but it certainly has allowed me to find a voice, which is quite a feat for an introvert like me.