Fate Show Thy Force
This is a post that will cause the fingers of many readers to reach for their computer keyboards and, freely, type a reply in support of self-determination. These same readers would have certainly been compelled, had they been in Malvolio’s position, to argue against Olivia’s pursuit of Cesario. They would have instinctively revolted at Olivia’s idea that, “Ourselves we do not owe. What is decreed must be, and be this so.”
Not so with Tolstoy, it turns out. He doesn’t allow his eye to be too great a flatterer of his mind. He looks out on the bloodsoaked fields of Borodino and does not see the work of human agency. He sees instead an unseen government legislating from beyond the limited understanding of men these gruesome sights of the cannon-felled bodies and bayoneted corpses.
But though toward the end of the battle the men felt all the horror of what they were doing, though they would have been glad to leave off, some incomprehensible, mysterious power continued to control them, and they still brought up the charges, loaded, aimed, and applied the match, though only one artilleryman survived out of every three, and though they stumbled and panted with fatigue, perspiring and stained with blood and powder. The cannon balls flew just as swiftly and cruelly from both sides, crushing human bodies, and that terrible work which was not done by the will of a man but at the will of Him who governs men and worlds continued.
Whatever may happen to you, it was prepared for your from all eternity; and the implication of causes was from eternity spinning the thread of your being and that which is incident to it.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations