• New Philosopher vol .36

New Philosopher vol .36

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“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”

– Ralph Ellison


The Fates – Moirai to the Greeks and Parcae to the Romans – were three sisters in Greek and Roman mythology who handled a length of thread that represented each and every life: the ‘thread of destiny’. Through each thread they controlled the destinies of mortals and gods alike, ensuring that lives were led according to the laws of the universe. Clotho would spin the thread; Lachesis would determine the length of and amount of luck in a life; and Atropos would cut it with her shears to bring it to an end.

We humans are quite fond the idea of certainty, be it of our past, present, or future; of knowing what comes next. But, in the end, the only real certainty we have is that Atropos will wield her shears and cut the thread. (And, as Benjamin Franklin quipped, that someone will ensure we pay our dues.)

Rather than causing anguish or fear, the certainty of death in an uncertain life should galvanise us into action to live life to the fullest. We mightn’t have much control over our fate – when we are born, the amount of luck in our lives, and when it will end – but we could do worse than to accept this, and take Ralph Ellison’s advice that “life is to be lived, not controlled”.