Do Things Happen for a Reason?

I choose to believe that things happen in my life for a reason. I view the hardships that come my way as lessons that I can either pass or fail, and that these challenges will keep on repeating until I’ve mastered them. I doubt that I’ve ever managed to pass any of these lessons the first time round and with some of them I repeatedly failed for years (in the case of my alcohol addiction it took decades).

Life in a Purposeless Universe

The belief that things happen for a reason, and that life is a series of lessons, is not a new idea. There have probably always been people who viewed the world this way. It makes the hard aspects of being a human that bit easier to deal with when we can believe that there is some purpose behind it all. Most religions contain this teaching, and it is also shared by most spiritual seekers in one form or another.

In recent years it has become less fashionable to believe that things happen for a reason. The popularity of the claim that humans arrived in the universe by pure chance, and with no purpose, does not leave any room for such a worldview. It even sounds absurd and arrogant that a person would claim that their life is a series of lessons if we are merely meat puppets and insignificant dots in a vast cosmos. It makes far more sense for those who accept the purposelessness of life to just shrug their shoulder and say, “shit just happens”. No wonder the rates of depression and substance abuse are so rampant in many countries where this philosophy has taken hold. It was this idea that allowed me to remain stuck in addiction for so many years – if shit just happens then your best bet is to just party as hard as you can.

The Unfairness of it All

The other problem with believing that things happen for a reason is the obvious unfairness in the world. Some people do seem to be trying hard to do the right things but life keeps on kicking them in the teeth. I had a sad reminder of this a couple of months ago. One of the guys who I got sober with at Thamkrabok temple committed suicide. It is impossible for me to comprehend how somebody who can clean up their life, and maintain this for six years, could still feel the need to end their own life. It is unfair, and I have no problem understanding why it would cause people to conclude that shit just happens.

Despite the plentiful examples of unfairness in the world I do not believe that shit just happens. None of us can see the big picture, and we can’t walk in the shoes of anyone else. I also refuse to accept the idea that humans are mere meat puppets – this is a vile philosophy that dehumanises us. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame people at all for reaching this conclusion. It is the belief itself that I find so objectionable and not the fact that so many individuals around the world now accept it as fact.

The Lessons of Life

I choose to believe that life is a series of lessons because this has been my experience. Even if it turns out that I’m wrong I still feel certain that it is better to treat the obstacles in my path this way. If shit just happens then depression, substance abuse, and suicide make perfect sense. We might as well all just give up because the rug can be pulled out of us at any time and doing the right things will be not guarantee that we will be able to get back on our feet again. It would mean that our future is out of our hands because we are powerless to control all those random events that could wreck our life.

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4 thoughts on “Do Things Happen for a Reason?

  1. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for sharing.
    In an scientific way one could argue that believing things happen for a reason is like looking for patterns in the clouds.
    However, even if things don’t really happen for a reason, such as quantum physics supports, I feel as a human it is better to treat things this way. We have hard to explain qualities like instinct, guts feeling and sometimes even feelings of déjà vu and premonition. Why should we as a society even consider about getting rid of these? Just because we can’t explain them?
    You mention merely hardships and obstacles as as a kind of benchmarks for learning, but I would like to add that I like to believe that positive things also happen for a reason.

  2. I believe that no matter what my current situation, positive or negative, I am experiencing exactly what I need to be experiencing at this time in my life. It could be no other way. Whatever it is, it is mine, my challenge, my lesson, my opportunity. I seek to embrace and weloome it into my life. Not always an easy thing to do, but the personal benefits and sense of well being achieved from subscribing to this philosophy are immense.

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