Everything Happens for a Reason?

What are we really saying when we offer that ‘everything happens for a reason?’  Are we suggesting that our lives and the lives of those around us have been pre-programmed in every possible way so that absolutely everything that happens in our singular and collective lives happens because it was ordained or determined to happen as such?  Or does it mean that once something has happened, we can take a retrospective glance or study of the event or happening and see that it might have been caused by a combination of events that came together in the moment of whatever it was that happened?  ‘This’ plus ‘this’ led to ‘this,’ and then when ‘this’ happened, it led to ‘this,’ and then when ‘that’ happened it led to ‘thus and such,’ and then ‘those things’ combined to cause ‘this and that’ to happen, which led to this person doing ‘this particular thing,’ or led to ‘this particular something’ happening to ‘this specific person?’  Is that what it means?

 

In my ‘quest’ to discover some possible meanings for this rather commonplace saying, I found another blog that mentions the book Everything Happens for a Reason: Finding the True Meaning of the Events in our Lives, by psychologist Mira Kirshenbaum.  When I followed the link to Amazon.com, I read what Publishers Weekly had to say about the book –

 

If you believe that “everything happens for a reason,” you might find solace in this well-written self-help guide by psychotherapist Kirshenbaum. Her premise is that “that no matter what happens to you, not only does something valuable come out of it, but it’s just what you need.” Kirshenbaum details…10 possible life lessons one might learn from unhappy life events, ranging from self-acceptance, feeling at home in the world and letting go of fear to finding true love or your hidden talents…Kirshenbaum is careful to note that what you learn doesn’t make up for what you have lost…If you don’t believe there is comfort to be found in life’s worst events, this book isn’t for you. But if you’ve undergone a tragedy and are desperate to find meaning in it, Kirshenbaum’s smooth, comforting tone may give you some direction.  (Underlining added)

 

The “10 possible life lessons one might learn from unhappy life events” are listed in the blog as:

 

1.     To help you feel at home in the world

2.     To help you totally accept yourself

3.     To show you that you can let go of fear

4.     To bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness

5.     To help you uncover your hidden talent

6.     To give you what you need to find true love

7.     To help you become stronger

8.     To help you discover the play in life

9.     To show you how to live with a sense of mission

10. To help you become a truly good person

 

Another reviewer, Gavin de Becker, the bestselling author of The Gift of Fear, said that, “In a loving universe, everything does happen for a reason, and in Mira Kirshenbaum’s book we are persuaded that the universe always has our best interests at heart – even in our darkest moments.”  I’ve got some comments to make about that statement, but it will have to wait a bit.

 

While I haven’t read the book (yet?) and will concede that neither the blog nor the book reviews could possibly do the book every justice or injustice that it might deserve, it appears that the author is suggesting that a retrospective look at the events of our lives can be analyzed and suggested to fit into one or more of her above-named categories.  But having said that, it appears that she is also saying, in her premise anyway, that no matter what happens to you/us, something good is going to come from it…and that something is going to be just what we need…which means, to me anyway, that someone or something is directing the events and circumstances in our lives…in essence, good and bad things are brought to us by the universe (God?) because we need them.

 

Let’s run with that for a second…we got a good job after working shit jobs for 15 years building our resume while going to school…and we didn’t earn or acquire that ourselves…the universe brought it to us?  Our in-laws were killed in a car crash when some drunk crossed the line and plowed into their vehicle head-on…and he lived…and the universe brought that to us for some good reason?  Or did that happen so that we could learn to live our lives with a sense of mission?  Our client’s three and four year-old daughters were raped in their private parts, bottom, and mouth…both of them were raped in all three places…and the universe brought that to the client and the little girls for their own good?  Or did that happen so the mother could be brought to the place where she can feel forgiveness?  We finally won the lottery after spending $20 twice a week every week for 23 years…and the universe brought that to us?  Our son or daughter joined the military to fight against some fabricated threat somewhere across the world and got killed while trying to save the people who don’t want us there from themselves…and the universe brought that to us for our own good?  Please tell those 3,600-plus families who lost their loved ones in the events of September 11th that the universe brought them that experience for their own good…for a particular and specific reason…because the universe is a loving universe and only gives us what we need…please tell them and me how that could be true….

 

In my searching for other possible meanings or examples of this saying that ‘everything happens for a reason,’ I came across some other ‘comforting’ words from the Christian scriptures -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says that:

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which was planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

 

So, there’s right time for a four year-old to be sexually abused by some monster of a person?  There’s a right time for people to be killed by a drunk driver and have the drunk live?  There’s a right time for planes to fly into buildings and kill thousands of people?  There’s a right time for crazed white people to hang black people from trees?  There’s a right time for hurricanes and tidal waves and volcanoes and plagues to wipe-out thousands upon thousands of people?  There’s a right time for carbon monoxide leaks to kill entire families as they sleep?  There’s a right time for mothers suffering from post-partum depression to drown their children in their bathtubs?  There’s a right time for one tribe of people to massacre another tribe of people because they believe in different spirits and gods?  There’s a right time for men and fathers to cut the labia off of their daughters’ vaginal openings so they don’t experience any pleasure in the sex act?  Everything happens for a reason?  There’s a right time for freeway snipers to shoot unsuspecting people as they went about the mundane tasks and routines of their lives, or for a disgruntled mate to barge into city council chambers and start shooting employees, or for a disenchanted veteran to load a rental truck full of explosives and kill 168 people because he didn’t like the way the government handled certain incidents…there’s a right time for all of that?  There’s a right time for 50yo men to ‘marry’ 14yo girls to have them as second and third and fourth and fifth wives?  There is a right time for a US Army major to open fire and kill 12 people and wound 31 others on a US Army base in the middle of the United States?  All of those things happened because the loving universe brought them to people and to us for our own good and theirs, Gavin de Becker?  What?

 

Or this, from AOL News:

 

A British hospital wants to remove a 1-year-old boy born with a rare neuromuscular condition from life support, but the child’s father is fighting to keep him alive.

 

The baby’s mother agrees with hospital officials, who sought High Court permission Monday to remove the boy from the ventilator that allows him to breathe, British media reported.

 

“RB’s mother has sat by her son’s bedside every day since he was born,” her lawyer, Anthony Fairweather, said in a statement, according to Sky News. “In her mind the intolerable suffering experienced by her son must outweigh her own personal grief should she lose her child.”


The infant, known only as “Baby RB,” was born with congenital myasthenic syndrome, a muscle weakness that limits the movement of his limbs and his ability to breathe on his own. He has been in the hospital since birth.

 

Doctors treating the baby say he has such poor quality of life that it’s not in his best interests to keep him alive. But lawyers for the father argue that the child’s brain is not affected by the condition and that Baby RB can see, hear, feel, recognize his parents and even play with toys.

 

“This is a tragic case. The father feels very strongly that Baby RB has a quality of life that demands the trust should continue to provide life-sustaining treatment. The father clearly adores his son and hopes to demonstrate to the court that the trust’s application should be rejected,” Christopher Cuddihee, a lawyer representing the father, told the Sunday Telegraph.

 

The parents are separated, but both have been living in a special dedicated family accommodation near the hospital since Baby RB’s birth. Their identities were withheld for legal reasons.

 

If the hospital’s application is granted, it will be the first time a British court has gone against the wishes of a parent and ruled that life support can be discontinued or withdrawn from a child who does not have brain damage, the Guardian newspaper said.

 

Congenital myasthenic syndrome is the result of a rare gene abnormality that affects the link between the nerve and muscle, destroying the “signal” between the two when the nerve wants the muscle to contract.

 

Only 300 people in the United Kingdom are believed to have CMS, and they are affected with varying degrees of severity.

 

Please tell the mother and father in the article above that this all happened for a reason.  Tell them and me that the universe was looking out for this baby, this mom and this dad, and that it is all coming together for some good purpose…for a reason and one that will benefit everyone involved, because that’s how the universe is…it just is, right?  Please tell the mother and father in the article above, Mira Kirshenbaum, that not only will “something valuable come out of” this situation with their little baby…but that it will be “just what [they] need;” I fucking dare you.

 

Forgive me, but the universe doesn’t give a shit about us.  We’re life forms that happened to have survived the thousands of thousands of years and have managed to do so despite what we’ve done to ourselves as cultures and as a species…the universe doesn’t bring anything, things just happen.  Genetic mutations occur and people die…just like other animals do out in ‘nature.’  This mom wants her baby to be taken off the respirator so he can stop suffering physically, so his body will cease to live and he will pass away…and his father wants him to continue to exist physically because his brain is aware and present…and is aware that he is hurting as his body is fighting against itself and that some of the people who love him want him to continue to be in this state…shit…love him and let him go.

 

Everything happens for a reason?  I don’t think so.  Good happens and shit happens and that’s just the way it is. 

 

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6 responses

  1. me

    i really hate that statement, too. there just has to be an answer, a “good” answer, for all that which is not answerable. and what the hell is a “loving universe?” made me choke on my taco bell . . .

    November 8, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    • seekraz

      I don’t know…there may never be a ‘good’ answer for many of our questions, but giving credit to the ‘loving universe,’ whatever that is, is lame. Thank you for visiting. 🙂

      November 9, 2009 at 10:41 am

  2. I think that the statement comes from a human need for justification. If really bad things happen, humans need to try and understand the “why” of it all. I don’t know why we need to know why, we just do. Period.
    From that need, comfort and peace of mind is fabricated by way of saying that it was just ‘meant to be’ in order to justify the events or make sense of them. Humans don’t like chaos and prefer order and reason.

    And while this, God, and fate may or may not exist, I think that there is nothing wrong in trying to find good in that which is bad.

    The whole glass half empty question.

    I also think that the human response to ‘bad things’ is a coping and survival mechanism. Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and famous neurologist, suggested that when very bad things happen to people, the only thing that a person control is their attitude towards the situation. And it is in that attitude towards it that can literally determine whether or not the person is capable of surviving it. Frankl says,
    “If a prisoner felt that he could no longer endure the realities of camp life, he found a way out in his mental life – an invaluable opportunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one that the SS were unable to destroy. Spiritual life strengthened the prisoner, helped him adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival”. -Man’s Search for Meaning, Part One, “Experiences in a Concentration Camp”, Viktor Frankl, p. 123

    November 9, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    • seekraz

      You could be right, my friend…maybe people need justification for bad things happening to them – when they understand or believe that there is a god up there or wherever. If a person has no belief in such a supernatural entity, I don’t think they will have those thoughts.

      I think the “finding something good in that which is bad” and the “glass being half empty” situations are something strikingly different, though. After an event has concluded, months or years later, we can see that something positive might have happened after something bad happened and there might be some relationship between the two…or we can try to be optimistic even in the face of difficulties, but those are different than believing that the horrible things happened FOR a reason or in order TO bring about something else in our selves or lives. In one of the examples I used in the essay about the three and four year-old sisters being raped and sodomized, there is no silver-lining in that cloud. Those things didn’t occur TO bring about something good. With the little boy in England who has that genetic abnormality, that condition wasn’t ‘bestowed’ upon him in order TO bring about something good. If we allow that possibility to exist, then we have to allow that God or the universe can prevent horrible things and can bring them upon us. We also, then, have to believe that God really did converse with Satan about him testing Job…we have to believe that God tries us and punishes us to bring us back to him…and then we will believe that he also condemns us to everlasting hell when we choose not to follow him…it all goes part and parcel together. The psychologist that I referenced in the essay said that the universe brings those horrible things to us FOR A REASON and that something good will come out of it. I believe that is the equivalent of horse-shit.

      We’ve discussed Viktor Frankl before and I agree that the person’s attitude can sometimes be the only thing that gets him/her through a given situation or through any situation…that’s the acme of the glass being half full scenario…the person is looking for strength or escape inside themselves to survive the shit that’s happening to them on the outside…kudos to him, seriously…but I believe this is very different than what I just described with the children in the previous paragraph.

      Thank you for your thoughts, Jason. 🙂

      November 9, 2009 at 6:49 pm

  3. Nathan

    I personally can not stand that fucking ridiculous statement. It’s baffling to me that so many people truly believe that the universe or some ‘god’ REALLY cares about us and our personal lives. We are animals just like every other animal on the face of this earth, and for some reason we’re supposed to be the special ones? We’re the ones that are ‘loved’ by the universe? We’re the ones who get to have a ‘soul’ and carry on after we die? I suppose if the universe is unbiased and cares about everything equally, there must be a reason I chopped that scorpion in half with my spatula…..maybe the scorpion’s babies will find some good out of it….. I don’t think so. There is no good god-damn reason anything in life happens. Sometimes good DOES come from bad events, and it’s wonderful when that does happen. But, most people living their shitty lives never get that reprieve, or the solace that they are oh so hoping for. They’re dealt one bad card after another, and that’s just the way it is.

    I know you’ve quoted this before, but it is rather fitting. The great Dr. House says “People don’t get what they deserve, they get what they get”.

    Thanks for the rant, Dad. I’m an overall positive person and think that each individual has a lot of control over their attitude towards things, but this superficial optimism that people live their life by is almost insulting sometimes.

    November 11, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    • seekraz

      Well said, Nate…nice complement to the rest of the essay. And I agree, the superficial optimism is almost insulting…amazing.

      November 11, 2009 at 5:40 pm

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