Spiritual Beachcombing:“Kismet”

I will never forget the first time I made the pilgrimage from Robert Moses Field 5 down the long dirt road that leads to Fire Island. That happened more than a decade ago, yet I still vividly remember being awestruck when I saw an enchanted town surrounded by the Great South Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Discovering that this community’s name was Kismet made the whole experienceseem mystical. I felt like Dorothy landing in Oz.

The word kismet means fate or destiny. Putting it more poetically, we might say something was written in the stars. In a more traditional religious context, we might say it was God’s will.

In the early 19th century, when the Western world went through a period of infatuation with Eastern cultures, this exotic-sounding Turkish word was adopted into English. However, the word comes from the Arabic word qisma, which means portion or lot. Some people think of kismet as their destiny or lot in life, something meant to be.

After the success of the 1953 Broadway show “Kismet,” with lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest and book by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis, the word kismet came into widespread use. Although critics were less than enthused with this musical, as fate or kismet would have it, there was a newspaper strike under way when this show premiered. By the time the long strike was over, and those bad reviews went to print, “Kismet” had become a box office hit. In 1954, this show even went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical.

More often than not, we tend to think of kismet as a serendipitous, beneficial life-changing event. Romantically speaking, most people associate the word kismet with the joyous coming together of two souls who are destined to meet. The term soulmate is often used when referencing these blessed couples. Yet kismet cuts both ways and can be used to explain an unexpected tragic event, but we are more likely to refer to this situation as ill-fated or attribute it to bad luck rather than to chalk it up to kismet. However, this unfortunate occurrence could be kismet in action since there are two types of kismet: Kismet by Grace, which is always a positive occurrence, and Karmic Kismet, which could have positive or negative consequences.

In the Hindu and Buddhist religions, karma is the belief that a person’s free-will thoughts and deeds determine the favorable or unfavorable path their life will take; in other words, cause and effect or action and reaction. This sentiment is reflected in the proverbs we reap what we sow and what goes around comes around. Following this reasoning, a person who accrues good karma could manifest an advantageous kismet experience. Whereas an individual with less-than-stellar thoughts and behaviors might bring on the kind of kismet we call misfortune, mischance, or mishap. These negative instances of Karmic Kismet are not to be confused with the times we are broadsided by Random Acts of Karma, which translates into being at the wrong place at the wrong time. When Karmic Kismet strikes, we will always be able to look back and trace the steps that led to the twist of fate that impacted our lives for better or worse.

Kismet by Grace always brings good fortune since grace is defined as unmerited favor from God, not earned but freely given. This kind of kismet is an unconditional gift of love from above, like winning the spiritual jackpot just by being you.

When it comes to Kismet by Grace, timing is everything. To comprehend how this divine conspiracy of heaven and earth transpires, you must understand the concept of kairos time. According to the ancient Greeks, there are two words for time, chronos, which measures the quantity of time using clocks and calendars, and kairos, which means right time or opportune.  Kairos signifies quality time, those unforgettable, synchronistic moments where you feel like the stars have aligned in your favor. Kismet by Grace depends upon divine timing, meaning chronos time worked with kairos time to make this fortuitous phenomenon come to pass.

This summer, as you stroll through the beach paradise known as Fire Island, try to reflect upon the times kismet has played out in your life. Meditate on how your thoughts, actions, and deeds could better work together to bring about future positive Karmic Kismet moments. As for being blessed by Kismet by Grace, keep the faith!