You cannot “tempt” fate

I cringe whenever I hear somebody admonished by another for merely speaking about something morbid.

Don’t tempt fate,” the other party will say, as though Fate were intently listening with a cup to the adjoining wall, and now that you’ve reminded it of something unpleasant, it will decide to gift you with some of that very unpleasantness. As though, had you only kept your mouth shut, you would have been somehow “safer.”

What a load of shit.

Fate cannot be tempted. Fate marches to beat of its own drum – it acts purely on its own whims, whatever they happen to be. It is the height of arrogance to presume that by merely mentioning something unpleasant, you have the power to tempt Fate one way or another. Fate couldn’t care less about you.

So if it is impossible to tempt Fate – either to your benefit or to your detriment – what is left to do?

Simply to adapt yourself – in advance – to whatever it does dish out. Be ready for shipwreck, be ready for calamity, be ready for things to go completely wrong. Because that stuff is either going to happen or not going to happen, completely independent of what you do or say.

What is quite unlooked for is more crushing in its effect, and unexpectedness adds to the weight of a disaster. The fact that it was unforeseen has never failed to intensify a person’s grief. This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events.

Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

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