Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Destiny and destination

This phrase “control their destiny” has been flying around a lot lately, not only about the Sharks.  People like to add “own,” as in “their own destiny.” I suppose whose destiny it is can’t be emphasized enough. 

As the last ditch scramble for the playoffs rises to a fever pitch, a few NHL teams are still in make or break mode.  As a fan, I am nearly catatonic, it is so stressful.  Before I crawl back under my desk to chew on my sleeve, I wanted to say something about the word “destiny” and this idea of controlling your own or anyone else’s.  Several writers have started questioning the use of the word:

Stephen Whyno ‏ @SWhyno: “Grammar qualm: #Caps control their own fate to make playoffs. Not destiny. You can’t control destiny. Thank you.”

Finding a substitute is no small task.  The problem is not only grammatical, it is philosophical.  Don’t get your hopes up, I will not solve the second problem here but I might throw some light on the grammar part.

Merriam-Webster gives us two definitions for “destiny”:

1: something to which a person or thing is destined : fortune <wants to control his own destiny>
2: a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency

The second definition is interchangeable with “fate,” the first it is a little more flexible.  That’s important.  You cannot control fate.  Fate is determined by supernatural female entities and you simply do not tell them what to do.  The Greeks called them Moirai, the Romans called them Parcae and the Norse knew them as Norns.  Whatever you call them, they do what they want. 

Destiny is different.  Modern Western philosophy suggests that people have a more participatory role in where they are going, as did very old Chinese philosophy.  Free will is a very big deal deal nowadays.  If you can control destiny, that takes the bite out of it, don’t you think?  If destiny is just your destination, what’s so fancy about it?  I have to wonder what the Protestant influence on American culture had to do with this, or vice-versa.  Predeterminism is so un-American.

Anyway, the dispute about the tractability of destiny has been much discussed over the centuries.  Its definition is not settled as fate’s is.  I think we are supposed to take comfort in that, even if it means stripping destiny of its poetic clout and calling it simply a destination.  Even the statement “No fate” doesn’t diss fate that badly—it merely denies fate’s existence, it doesn’t redefine the word.

I have to wonder what those philosophers might have accomplished if they had put as much energy into doing stuff as they put into trying to figure out whether there was any point in doing stuff.

The Sharks and the Stars both have a chance to climb over a very big obstacle tonight.  This game is not the very last hurdle, it cannot determine anything by itself.  The Sharks are three points behind LA, and only one ahead of Dallas.  So the Sharks cannot jump to first place tonight but they can fall out of eighth.  After tonight, it is all LA and Quick.  Far better to cripple the Stars’ chances now than hope to sweep LA.

So a loss tonight won’t kill the Sharks’ playoff hopes, but it would make the next two games really unbearably daunting.  Of course, a win can give them one hell of a boost.  The Stars are in exactly the same situation, but for one point in the standings and who they face next: Nashville and St. Louis.

The Sharks have done very well against the Stars this season:

The fact the Sharks are 4-0-1 against the Stars to this point provides all the more reason to expect an unpleasant welcome. -Mercury News

Unfortunately, three of those wins were second games of back to backs for the Stars.  Like the Sharks, the Stars have had a couple of days off now.  Combine that information with the Sharks’ lousy road record and the only hope is that extremes seek the center and a horrific record cannot be sustained.

In theory.  You can’t know what your destiny is supposed to be until you try everything to get where you want to be.  Only then can you know your fate.

Go Sharks!

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: destiny, fate, playoffs

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net