A Schwarzeneggerian man wearing wrap-around sunglasses and a black leather duster steps out of his 80s car on the side of a busy road. He blankly gazes across the flowing streams of civilians until his glinting red eyes rest on you.
He purposefully begins to stride towards you. Each time his foot impacts the pavement, a metallic clang pierces your ear.
He is twenty feet away and his steps quicken, along with your heartbeat, as he fights his way through the crowds. Are you in danger? What does he want with you? Does he want anything with you?
You stand up to leave, shoulder your bag and search for an opening in the crowd. You turn back around and see nothing but the barrel of a pistol.
You blink one last time. You hear a click.
You have been terminated.
James Cameron’s immensely popular and critically acclaimed movie “The Terminator,” utilized the crippling fear of nuclear holocaust during the Cold War and the advancement of technological warfare to introduce an eternally relevant question to audiences in a new way.
This question is one of fate.
Fate is among one of the more odd subjects we can examine, especially in an academic realm such as ours.
Everyone has an opinion on fate.
Was the man who was “terminated” above inevitably going to die? Could something have happened to change what, in reality, actually occurred? Is fate something specific to the second, or can we put it off by some means? Is the future never fully determined by any cause, being more dependent on chaos than action?
Such are the questions posed by Cameron in “The Terminator,” as well as being posed by Euripides, Aeschylus, Kant, Descartes, Nietzsche and countless others in their various works.
No matter where you look, you can always find someone with a pretty high IQ who is certain that they have found the solution to fate, and that all others before them, and all those who disagree with them, are fooling themselves.
Many today struggle with the issue of fate and never even recognize it because the fear of the future has now been tinted with the label of mental illness by way of anxiety and insecurity.
If you live day-to-day in fear of what the next hours, what the next encounters or what the next experiences have in store for you, you are grappling with the question of fate itself, though others might try to label you as being “abnormal” or “mentally ill.”
The Greeks knew better. They feared and respected the future, believing that it was so totally out of their control that they had to pray to the forces of nature (who, of course, had been birthed by chaos itself) for favorable fates, and that even then, nothing was secure.
Our arrogance regarding our future was, in a way, corrected by the crippling cultural fear that the Cold War caused. Just go and ask your parents what they thought about the future as they were practicing nuclear fallout drills in their kindergarten classroom, and you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about.
We were reminded that the future is not something that we already have and that it is as mysterious and elusive as a mirror image.
However, as Catholics attempting to be faithful, when we become confused about questions that are perhaps too grand for us, we look to the life of Christ for guidance.
In Matthew 12:36-37, we hear that “On the day of judgment people will render an account for every… word they speak. By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
We have an insanely small amount of power over our futures. Even if we do actively shape our futures, we are far from aware of the consequences of our actions, so much so that the reality which we experience seems to be coming together out of chaos.
The antidote to chaos and anxiety which I propose we all think heavily about taking is responsibility.
The responsible person can account for their words, deeds and thoughts, living by them honestly. Awareness and care for what someone is doing, thinking or saying is the only cure for chaos and the only antidote to anxiety. Death poses no threat to those ready for it.
Responsibility removes the fear of the future because the responsible person is ready to meet their fate at all times.