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Friday, November 25, 2011

“Everything happens for a reason”

This was something a blogger whose writings I'm fond of was discussing in a recent posting.

  It's not the first time I've taken her name in vain, incidentally - or invoked, should I say. Her writings about and demonstrations of calligraphy prompted me to tell a childhood tale about pens and ink and copybooks.

  Right now, I'm more inclined to talk about the topic that's the title of this posting, as Alex wrote:
I collect quotes finding inspiration in the words of others. But there are some bits of wisdom I don't understand. “Everything happens for a reason” is one of them. Some things don't make sense and never will. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason.
The statement, "Everything happens for a reason", with which everyone will be familiar, is a misleading one. There's nothing more certain than that there is a reason why everything happens. If the quote were "Everything happens because there's a reason," it would make sense in terms of cause and effect.

  'Reasons' rather than 'reason' would be more accurate. There's always more than one reason why things happen, even if we don't understand what they are, whether it's that I've got this tumour in my brain or that vegetables are good for us.

  But when someone spouts "Everything happens for a reason," cause and effect is not usually what they're getting at. The intent of the statement is not reason at all, but to talk about purpose.

  If someone says, 'Everything happens for a purpose', this is a whole new ball game, and is the idea that Alex, quite rightly in my opinion, was challenging.

  What purpose could there be for my brain tumour? What purpose could there be for a child's agony with leukemia? Or the awful disease Alex was talking about, lupus? Do people get such things to show everyone else how lucky they are not to have them, and make them more grateful for what they have? Is the purpose of suffering to make them more compassionate human beings?

  Believe it or not, I have had a 'yes' answer put to me to such questions, including terminal disease even in children, and misfortunes of all sorts. 'It's for a reason (i.e., purpose)' so I'm lectured, 'only you don't know (yet) what it is.'

  Rubbish! This is an insult to human intelligence.

  Having a terrible misfortune may make someone a better, more compassionate person. It certainly changes your view of the world. Having a Down Syndrome child may make a parent more understanding of the condition when it happens elsewhere, but if that's its purpose, or the reason why it exists, then whoever created such a purpose has a weird way of doing things.

  It's easy to allow words to interfere with meaning in such a way as to intertwine cause and effect propositions with some other more mysterious idea.

  Not that this is a criticism of Alex's comments, as it's as clear to me as it would be to most where her challenge was coming from, but the saying itself is misleading. It mixes two very different propositions and leads to confusion.

  There's already too much of that in the world!


  1. Wouldn't it be nice if as children we were taught about the Chaos Theory alongside cause and effect? Life is filled with an infinite number of events that are unimaginable and often seem to lack reason. This American proverb is a poor excuse for trying to make sense of that which we don't have the words to comprehend.

  2. Would you believe it, A - it's over a year since I started this blog, and Blogger, in its infinite wisdom, decided, for the first time with any response, that yours was spam, and hid it till I discovered it this morning. What an insult! It doesn't even look like spam. I apologise on Blogger's behalf.

    Perhaps it's demonstrating Chaos Theory first hand.

    Is it an American saying? I thought it had been around forever, but then America's had half a millennium or so to come up with it. I suppose that everyone would like to believe that there is a 'reason' for every seemingly unexplainable act that is morally indefensible. No moral system in the world can condone those skeletal children in the Horn of Africa starving to death. Cause and effect certainly does.

    Chaos theory, incidentally, is a subset of cause and effect determinism, however much some attempt to wean it away from it.

    Now to see if Blogger accepts MY posting as not-spam!


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