Damn the Fates



D.T. Suzuki, a renowned expert on Zen Buddhism, called attention to the topic of free will in one of his lectures by stating that it was the battle of "God versus Man, Man versus God, God versus Nature, Nature versus God, Man versus Nature, Nature versus Man1." These six battles constitute an ultimately greater battle: the battle of free will versus determinism. Free will is that ability for a human being to make decisions as to what life he or she would like to lead and have the freedom to live according to their own means and thus choose their own destiny; determinism is the circumstance of a higher being ordaining a man\'s life from the day he was born until the day he dies. Free will is in itself a far-reaching ideal that exemplifies the essence of what mankind could be when he determines his own fate. But with determinism, a man has a predetermined destiny and fate that absolutely cannot be altered by the man himself. Yet, it has been the desire of man to avoid the perils that his fate holds and thus he unceasingly attempts to thwart fate and the will of the divine.. Within the principle of determinism, this outright contention to divine mandate is blasphemous and considered sin. This ideal itself, and the whole concept of determinism, is quite common in the workings of Greek and Classical literature. A manifest example of this was the infamous Oedipus of The Theban Plays, a man who tried to defy fate, and therefore sinned.
The logic of Oedipus\' transgression is actually quite obvious, and Oedipus\' father, King Laius, also has an analogous methodology and transgression. They both had unfortunate destinies: Laius was destined to be killed by his own son, and Oedipus was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. This was the ominous decree from the divinatory Oracle at Delphi. King Laius feared the Oracle\'s proclamation and had his son, the one and only Oedipus, abandoned on a mountain with iron spikes as nails so that he would remain there to eventually die. And yet, his attempt to obstruct fate was a failure, for a kindly shepherd happened to come upon the young Oedipus and released him from the grips of death. The shepherd then gave the young boy to a nearby king who raised him as his own, and consequently named him Oedipus, which meant "swollen feet."
Upon Oedipus\' ascension to manhood, the Oracle at Delphi once again spewed its prophecy forth, this time, with the foretelling that Oedipus shall kill his father, whom he thought to be the king that had raised him as his own, and marry his mother. Oedipus, like Laius, was indeed frightened of such a dire fate, and thus resolved to leave his land and never return, so that the prophesy may not be fulfilled. Oedipus tried to travel as far away from home as he possibly could, and along his journey, he crossed paths with a man who infuriated him with his rudeness. Oedipus killed the man without the knowledge that that man was indeed his father Laius and ultimately, half of the prophecy had been fulfilled.
And when he came to Thebes, the remaining portion of the prophecy was fulfilled as he became the champion of the city with his warding off the Sphinx, hence winning the hand of his own mother Jocasta in marriage. Together they bore four children, and Oedipus\' dire fate had been fulfilled, all without his knowledge. The Theban Plays begin with a plague that ravages the city of Thebes, and Oedipus sets out to find the cause. At length, he discovers that he himself is the cause for he was guilty of both patricide and incest. When that realization is manifested, the utter shock and disgust of the horrific situation causes the tormented and disillusioned Oedipus to blind himself of a self-inflicted wound2.
According to some scholars, this was the retribution he paid for his crime, but others would argue that Oedipus had no choice in the matter and simply had fulfilled his destiny. The latter argument seems to be more convincing because Oedipus does not consciously know of what he was doing at the time, and