- My mother said, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”
- My wife looked at my adult son and said, “Everything happens for a reason.”
- The minister looked into the eyes of the congregation and said, “There is no such thing as a coincidence.”
I forget the exact contexts and situations.
To my mom I would say, “You did nothing to deserve cancer; no one does.” While there may be reasons someone gets cancer, it is not punishment for being not good enough or for being bad. However, it is no joke that a lot of people think like this because of religion.
To my wife I say that most things have a cause and effect. Many things happen due to natural causes, environments, and special situations. Some things are random and have disastrous outcomes. Shit happens.
When someone is fired from (or not selected for) a job, and they later get a much better job, that is good fortune probably assisted by the fact that the person is well qualified for both jobs and it is fortunate that they snagged the better one. The opposite also happens. While such a comforting phrase may bring minor, temporary solace; it is not true that everything happens for a (supernatural) reason. A spiritual being causing a temporary problem to bring about a happier or sadder outcome fails any common-sense test.
To the minister I say that coincidence may not mean exactly what you think it means. According to one (MW) dictionary it relates to coinciding of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have a connection. Better words might be random, arbitrary, pointless, haphazard, or desultory.
Whether one believes in a god or not, and regardless of the influence of any god, those words exist because things and happenings can be random, pointless, and desultory.
I recall reading a poem in Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones: Spiritual Answers to Psychological Questions by the late Father Benedict Groeschel. The poem of unknown authorship is titled “The Weaving.” The last of three, eight-line stanzas goes,
At last, when life is ended,
With Him I shall abide,
Then I may view the pattern
Upon the upper side;
Then I shall know the reason
Why pain with joy entwined,
Was woven in the fabric
Of life that God designed.
While the poem is beautiful and weaving as a metaphor for a life designed by a god is useful, it also points to the unknown reason for the suffering in life. It implies that we will find no reason until after death, and then only if we are in heaven with the deity who will, presumably, make it all clear. In other words, it makes no sense.
I prefer this outlook from the song “The Sad Café” by the Eagles.
Now I look at the years gone by,
And wonder at the powers that be.
I don’t know why fortune smiles on some
And lets the rest go free
Shit happens. It’s not our fault. Blame it on whatever imaginary entity you choose. That may be the only reason you ever find.
© Bill Reynolds 1/10/2019
Look both ways for the reasons in life, but don’t accept not knowing—wonder.
Mind the gaps, they are real, but may be overcome with knowledge.