Does Fate Exist?

I recently watched The Terminator 2 in 3D at the local theater. It is a complex film that explores the ideas of fate and destiny, determinism and free will, the empowerment of the individual and the ability of every person to change the course of the future.

First, a summary of the Terminator movies, the first and the second.

Starting with Terminator, a company named Cyberdyne Systems creates an artificial intelligence called Skynet. When Skynet takes on human qualities, its creators panic – they do not trust it to make decisions that will be in favour of humanity and they try to shut it down. In response, Skynet uses its access to military systems to spark a nuclear war between Russia and the US. Human civilization is destroyed. Skynet creates machines to hunt down and terminate the scattered survivors.

John Connor leads the resistance, and he is targeted by Skynet for termination. The machines having developed the capability for time travel, send a Terminator – a cyborg killing machine that appears human – back in time to kill John Connor’s mother before he is born. John seizes the time travel technology from the machines and sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother. Reese is killed, but not before he sleeps with Sarah Connor, John’s mother, conceiving of John himself. After a long and bloody pursuit, Sarah destroys the Terminator, crushing it in the factory machinery.

Another machine is sent back to kill John as a teenager. Sarah had raised him as a survivalist, but ultimately he was taken into the foster care system after Sarah was forced into mental treatment, her experiences of the first movie taken to be a delusion brought on by trauma. This time Future John sends back a reprogrammed Terminator to protect him, and Sarah; John and the Terminator must work together against the new Terminator, the T-1000. John and the reprogrammed Terminator (a T-800 model) go to rescue Sarah from the mental institution, and find her in the middle of escaping by herself.

They do escape, but only just, as the T-1000 has predicted John’s moves. The power of the new terminator is daunting, and contemplating the danger to her son and the apparent hopelessness of the situation, Sarah recalls John’s message to her from the future: ‘The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.’ Taking their future into her own hands, Sarah takes the fight to Cyberdyne itself. John and the T-800 catch up to Sarah just in time to prevent her from killing Miles Dyson – the scientist most directly responsible for the development of Skynet. Together, they destroy the lab, and, following an epic chase sequence, they destroy the T-1000 itself, and Sarah aids the T-800 in ‘self-terminating’ to prevent his technology from being recovered.

Fate is a Choice

The central message of the Terminator movies is John Cinnor’s message to himself, given to his father, passed on to his mother, and then repeated to himself, and by extension to us: ‘The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.’

Existentialism emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice. It says that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe.

Existentialism focuses on the question of human existence, and the feeling that there is no purpose or explanation at the core of existence. It holds that, as there is no God or any other transcendent force, the only way to counter this nothingness (and hence to find meaning in life) is by embracing existence.

Thus, Existentialism believes that individuals are entirely free and must take personal responsibility for themselves (although with this responsibility comes angst, a profound anguish or dread).

It therefore emphasizes action, freedom and decisionas fundamental, and holds that the only way to rise above the essentially absurd condition of humanity (which is characterized by suffering and inevitable death) is by exercising our personal freedom and choice.

This is the the Terminator. This is life.

Law of the Vital Few

The Law of the Vital Few, initially referred to as Pareto’s Law is named after the economist that made the observation. It states that 80% of effects of results come from 20% of the causes. This percentage breakdown is why the 80/20 Principle is aptly referred to as the Law of the Vital Few.

Real life examples of this law in place include, 20% of the total players on a soccer team score 80% of the winning goals, 80% of product development comes from 20% of the workforce , or on a more personal level, 80% of progress with self-improvement in any area of your life comes from 20% of your efforts.

Therefore, in order to maximize efficiency, it’s important to invest your resources in the top 20% causes that bring results. This requires knowing  what you want or what is needed. Hence, analysis and introspection is necessary.

The Law of the Vital Few is not absolute; but the bottom line is this- a small portion of the causes gives the majority of the effects.

Story Telling

The stories I tell myself hold a powerful sway over my memories, behaviors, beliefs, and values. Collectively, these stories are telling me who I am. Forget my physical body, it’s not the essence of what I am. Forget my blood, bones, muscles, fat and genes and cells. They’re not what I am. Rather instead, I am my stories, the accumulation of experiences that I have fashioned into my own epic, sweeping narrative. I am the events and people and places to which I have assigned symbolic meaning.

Oh, the drama of it all.

The Tyranny of Choice 

In December 2004, Scientific American Life published an article entitled The Tyranny of Choice. It argued that constantly being surrounded by indistinguishable everyday options is slowing us down. It’s overloading our minds and paralyzing us. It’s making us miserable. If you’ve ever spent an evening listlessly scrolling through Netflix’s infinite library, you’ll know that the Tyranny of Choice is painfully real.


Zen Rules

Soyen Shaku (January 10, 1860 – October 29, 1919) is noted as the first Zen Buddhist priest to come to the United States. Shaku followed a list of rules that he set for himself and lived by each day, until his passing at the age of 59.

1. In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.

2. Retire at a regular hour.

3. Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.

4. Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.

5. Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.

6. When an opportunity comes do not let it pass you by, yet always think twice before acting.

7. Do not regret the past. Look to the future.

8. Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.

9. Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep

10. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes