I’m middle management in a family-run organization, and my boss, who basically inherited the position from his father, is getting old. Recently, three sisters with a solid rep as psychics predicted that I was fated to take over, even though I’m not family. My question is whether, if this is fated to happen anyway, I can nudge it along by, say, killing my boss. He’s unlikely to respond well to a hint that it’s time to retire.

Name Withheld in Scotland


The question of whether fate leaves any room for free will is an age-old one in philosophy. But even supposing something is fated to happen no matter how we act, that does not relieve us of the burden of behaving ethically. The nepotism you are facing is real, and as you say, your boss is not the kind to take a hint. But surely you are not then left with murder as the only option. Does your organization have an annual shareholders meeting? That might be your chance to raise the leadership question outside the immediate and no doubt biased family circle.

I am also concerned that you may be too quick to accept the prediction of the psychics as fate. On what is the reputation of the three sisters based? Are they by any chance your sisters? If so, their prophecies might be biased in your favor. Nepotism works both ways.

I’m a college student who had to come home mid-semester due to some unusual family circumstances. My father passed away, and now only three weeks after the funeral, no one will even mention his name because my mother is already remarried. And get this: her new husband is my uncle, a real cold fish to whom I’ve never been close. There’s also a rumor that my father didn’t die of natural causes. He was always in such great health, and his angry ghost has been spotted hanging around our battlements acting like he has something important to say.

My question is whether I am obligated to stay here and figure out this mess or whether I can go back and finish my semester. I was doing well as a metaphysics major at a German university, and whenever I think about how far behind I am falling, I become so despondent that I retreat to my room and spend the rest of the day staring at the point of a bare bodkin. This worries my mother.

Name Withheld in Denmark


So often we find ourselves in a situation that is not of our own making but still our responsibility. You feel a natural tug to return to your life in Germany, and yet your life is also undeniably in Denmark. I agree that your mother’s remarriage seems a bit hasty and her choice of your uncle questionable. But facing trouble is always better than running away. You might start by sitting down and having a frank discussion of your feelings with your mother and uncle.

As for the ghost hanging around the battlements, that sounds like idle gossip. But like your mother, I too worry about the bare bodkin and all that time spent alone in your room. Are there some high school friends with whom you could reconnect? Your time away from your metaphysical studies does not have to be miserable. Ask your university about deferring a semester. That should give you ample time to sort out things at home and then return to the rest of your life.

I’m a powerful woman who likes to date powerful men, real alpha types who expect everyone to address them as “Emperor” or “Caesar.” My latest lover, though, has a self-destructive streak, and I am afraid he is going to take me down with him. If I were to publicly disassociate myself from him, I would have a chance of avoiding this. But if I don’t, I am sure to be eaten by the same sharks, so to speak, that are circling his boat. What to do?

Name Withheld in Egypt


To love someone is to identify their interests with our own. But this identification is never total, and in your case the need not to be devoured by the same sharks—Gambling debts? Drug addiction?—as are menacing your lover trumps any demands of loyalty to him. My only qualm is with your publicly wanting to sever ties with him. A quiet parting of the ways seems sufficient. Ethically speaking, there is more than a nuance of difference between escaping sharks and throwing someone else to them.