Language Lens

A blog about life, discovery and culture through the lens of language and linguistics.

Destiny and Destination: A Case of Yin and Yang

I enjoy philosophizing and pondering the mysteries of life, so it was no surprise many years ago when I brought a book of questions on a camping trip, to think about around the fire.

  • Is happiness made or found?

To me it’s the same as asking what matters more, the destination or the journey?  English calls ‘destiny’ and ‘destination’ by two separate words, like them being two different things entirely, where in Spanish they are but one word, the same word-destino.  Of course you know by context which you are talking about, but it led me to think just how different are these two things?

A student described destiny as “something you can’t control,” and destination as “something you can control.”  So perhaps this is an example of the ying and yang, two opposite forces coexisting in the same word?  Then there’s the concept of fate and destiny already being determined for you, so why try to control anything?

One could ponder for hours on this topic and don’t tempt me!  But one thing I want to say is that I see this language reflection in culture.  In my experience thus far living in Latin America, I see people living more in the moment, many times because they have to.  Their resources, the government or the economy (all three interconnected) don’t allow them to plan their future destinations, or when they try to a crisis hits which keeps them where they are.  Many in Argentina tell you they’re use to living in crisis so they’ve become accustomed to problem solving in the moment.

There are people of all kinds both here in Buenos Aires and in the United States, so it’s unfair to generalize, but I don’t think many people would disagree that American culture requires you to think of and plan for the future.  It requires you to think about where you’re going to end up, because much of the lifestyle is built around this idea.  One good factor is that usually the country was stable enough to allow you to plan.  Key word: “usually” and not always.

Language is a critical part of any culture and I think we’d all be fooling ourselves if we didn’t believe there was a deep connection between language and culture.  The better question, one for the next camping trip: which influences which-language influencing culture or culture influencing language?

  • “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~ Henry Miller

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