Sunday, September 25, 2016

Everything Happens for a Reason: It's Meant to Be!

     No two phrases irk me more than "Everything happens for a reason" and "If it's meant to be (fill in the blank)"  and their combinations and permutations. What these clauses mean is insulting. If people stopped for one moment and thought about what they were saying when they uttered these empty and meaningless words either to themselves or to someone else, they would never say them again.  To say that everything happens for a reason is equivalent to saying that either all of our actions, decisions or our outcomes are preordained by some imaginary sky god or other ethereal force, that we have no real choices by which to effect outcomes in our lives, that we are indeed puppets on a stage where some unseen force or imaginary director pulls our strings; we have no say in our destiny. Of course there is no evidence of this and I would not wish to live in a universe where this kind of existence were the case. Would you?
    The truth of the matter is that our brains are wired to seek patterns so that we can become better at predicting future outcomes. Therefore, when we have an experience, either good or bad, we are looking for something onto which to tie it. Usually in hindsight we can project meaning on these experiences. For example if one had a particularly difficult break-up of a love relationship and thought or heard multiple times, "everything happens for a reason" then in the future when one found a more suitable match then it could be projected to the past that the first heartache occurred so that the subsequent happiness could be found and appreciated.  It is however, the primitive and simple pattern-seeking behavior of our most fallible brain that allows and dare I say causes us to apply, often false, meaning from our past.  
     The easiest way to say it is: Shit happens! So what? Circumstances occur most randomly and we have to deal with them. Part of dealing with them for some can be to search for meaning. Any meaning however is always a subsequent piece of information projected onto said circumstances some time after the incident. Searching for meaning can also be a way for an individual to alleviate themselves of culpability. 
     Superstitions are also created this way. It's just another instance of drawing cause and effect relations from correlational data. Just because two things happen in close temporal proximity does not mean that they had anything to do with each other.  For example, walking under a ladder and then being hit by a car does not render walking under a ladder as the cause for the accident. Another example would be having a black cat walk in front of you on your way to work and then finding the place on fire: the cat had nothing to do with your perceived bad luck. Bad things also do not happen in threes, they just happen and we voraciously look for the correct number to justify our superstitions. 
     The most hurtful, cruel and devastating use of "Everything happens for a reason"  is when the person saying it invokes religion. A woman loses her husband in a car crash: There is no reason for this, yet people will tell her that it was their god's plan. What kind of a sick, bastard god would do that to someone?  Worse yet is when a child dies and the parents are told that the reason is "God needed another angel." What a cruel thing to tell a person who is so mired in grief that they can barely think. It's a despicable thing to say, and again: What kind of egomaniacal being would rip the hearts out of "children" s/he supposedly loves?  Its unconscionable! Not to mention, that if these credulous people actually read the unholy book in which they claim to believe, because angels are separate beings according to the mythology. They were never made out of humans. Such false beliefs cannot serve a person well. It is much better to work through the reality of a tragedy without employing such drivel. Loss sucks. Grief is excruciating work that takes over every part of a person. Let's not make it worse by saying that the unimaginable was supposed to happen for some reason. How can that possibly alleviate someones pain? It simply cannot. 
     The truth is, which the evidence supports, death is the end of one's existence, period. There is nothing that comes after. It was just like before one was born with the difference being that existence occurred, and it affects those remaining who knew the departed person. To me, this reality is far more kind because it has an end. It's the erroneous beliefs that cause false hopes that are destructive. Here's a question to ponder: If a person actually believed that they would see their loved one again after their own death, then why do people go on living when they can simply join their departed ones at any time? I submit that is because on some unconscious level, above and beyond any dogma into which one was indoctrinated, we know that death is the end and there is no reason for it other than its certainty. 
     Knowing that there is often no reason for bad things that happen, one must accept that neither is there no reason for good things that happen. The good part of all of this is that we do have choices to make along the way to help the odds be in our favor. We can choose safety over recklessness, activity over sloth, altruism over greed, love over apathy, to name a few. We also have choice when it comes to how we react to the randomness in our lives, both positive and negative. I see gratitude as the key for helping navigate through. If one is grateful for what one has, then no matter what comes, striving for a return to health or the betterment of oneself in the face of adversity is always possible. 
    I am not a puppet with strings to a celestial being and neither are you. I am a free person who makes her own choices and is personally responsible for them and how they both effect my future and impact those around me.

Live free, but first, do no harm.


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