I have recently started to watch Shogun, a historical drama taking place at the end of the 16th century in Japan.

In last week’s episode, a character tells Lord Toranaga, one of the leaders of Japan, “Fate is like a sword. Useful only to those who can wield it.”

Fate is a common theme in the show and is often spoken of when things happen out of the characters’ control.

In the show, the characters speak of the cause of death, destruction, misfortune, etc. with a nod to Fate as the reason. To be clear, Fate is not blamed. Rather the words indicate that the characters have submitted to Fate, see themselves at the whim of an omnipresent entity. I find similarities in Chinese culture as well. My mom will often say things like “That was their life path” or “That was the life they were born into” with the similar nod, not blame.

This is a nuanced distinction to Western culture. It seems we often will point a finger at something causing death, destruction, misfortune, etc. It is because we are taught that we can control or should be able to control everything. And in cases of “bad” things like the weather, natural disasters and death, we should be able to avoid/prevent it. (Enter the countless anti-aging measures that exist.) Giving control over to Fate is very much against a culture that likes to throw people-power and dollars at the shortcomings and problems of being a human on Earth.

I find myself caught in the middle of these two cultural points of view. In Shogun, Blackthorne, a character from England, is dumbfounded as he observes the Japanese characters submitting themselves to Fate over and over again. While waiting for Lord Toranaga to make a decision that is likely to end the lives of the Englishman and the samurais, Blackthorne says, “Anything is better than standing here pissing around.”

I see Fate as a real thing and I believe in divine timing – those two interplay quite a bit in my mind. But the Western part of me doesn’t want to stand here “pissing around” so she works and does things to try to move herself towards Fate, trying in her own way to “wield it.”

I’ve asked myself often – does the doing actually help move me towards Fate? Or should I simply wait like Lord Toranaga?

I see my choices as A) doing nothing and B) doing something. I often will choose to do something and try to stay open and unattached to the results. Sometimes it looks like me on my Peloton, rapid legs that bring me nowhere but just as the moving nowhere on the Peloton does serve a greater purpose, I think my doing does as well.

A part of me can’t imagine that waiting and doing nothing is the solution and the other part of me believes that Fate cannot be wielded and my actions are only giving me a false sense of control.

There is no right answer. Not because there isn’t an answer but because none of us will never know. This is one of those times where we have to do what we believe is best, and we have to choose the belief that best serves us.


I write everyday because it allows me to voice what is at the surface. Once that is out of my head, I can dig in another layer deeper. My daily writing practice has been my greatest exploration of self and humanity. Sign up here to receive these thought nuggets in your inbox on the daily.