Two tweets I saw recently: “I have no doubt in my mind that everything happens for a reason. Every single thing. The good and the bad all leads you to where you’re meant to be” – Banksy. “Everything in your life has been strategically orchestrated. You may not understand it, but this is what faith is all about” – Joel Osteen.
Before saying anything further, I think both of those statements are absolute bullshit. I don’t just disagree. They almost make me mad. Those statements are lazy and defeatist.
The most common counterargument I see is a response that points out the terrible circumstances people endure. Everything happens for a reason, huh? Ok, how about the five-year-old kid that dies of cancer? The teenage girl who gets raped and murdered? The guy who loses his wife and two kids in a car crash? You get the point. If you want to try to explain to those families that, don’t worry, everything happens for a reason, have fun. Or even better, don’t worry, your entire family dying was “meant to be” and “strategically orchestrated.” That’s kind of sick if you ask me.
Yet, looking at that belief system deeper reveals further troubles. It runs counter to the concept of free will. If everything happens for a reason or is orchestrated, are we even really making decisions? That’s essentially another way of describing Predeterminism, which suggests that all events are already decided or known. I guess if you believe that then the argument is over. But I would venture to guess that most people believe in free will and believe that life is not scripted. Talk of hard work and trying your best is based on the premise of free will and being able to make effectual change. Tossing up everything to some prewritten script seems like a copout to me and a way to avoid responsibility. Or maybe it’s just a comfort blanket people need.
Above this entire debate exists the plain truth that nobody knows what the future holds. Even if it is predetermined, we don’t know what will happen next. Would we change our behavior if we knew everything was orchestrated but didn’t know how? I know I’d probably still go to work tomorrow. If one is looking for comfort by thinking that everything is part of some divine plan, guess what? People die horrendous deaths every day, apparently all orchestrated and for a reason. The plan for you might be to die in a car crash tomorrow. The reason for that would be that you’re dead. RIP I guess.
But in all seriousness, I think the phrase that best sums up what transpires in life is “Shit Happens.” We’re all physical bodies bouncing around in a physical universe. Things are going to crash into each other in uncountable ways. I agree with a comment I saw someone leave: “Everything CAN happen for a reason if you assign it one… other than that… shit just happens. Like it or not.” I think that perfectly sums it up. Of course you can come up with reasons to rationalize what happened, or look on the bright side for lessons that can be learned from adversity, but that comes after it happens, it’s not why it happens. So please spare me that rhetoric. Nothing is meant to happen. Nothing is supposed to happen. What happens is what happens.