Maybe It’s NOT “Meant to Be”

In the last weeks, when my spouse needed help getting around, almost everybody told me it was “meant to be,” and that “there is a reason for everything.” I’m taking a big step outside my comfort zone here, and I’m going to say, “I don’t think so.”

Fuzzy question mark

Fuzzy question mark

The “reason for everything” phrase seems to me to be a way to avoid critical thinking, push unexplained events out of the realm of real-world and into the world of religion. And once it’s in the world of religion, it falls into the crack of fate, dusted over by the will of some special god.

I’m a spiritual person. But my kind of spirituality allows for not knowing everything, questioning things I don’t know, and leaves a lot of room for dumb mistakes, personal wrong-doing, evil people and tragic events that are not of a divine retribution or even a divine cause that we are to untangle like a thin-chain gold necklace, till the knots are out and we can wear it again. Wow. That sentence has 68 words, and I teach my writing classes that  a sentence should have a maximum of 16 words.  Must be a reason for that. See? There isn’t. I just rattled on.

And my spouse tripped over the cat, who was not divinely placed for some larger learning, he was just asleep under the fan.

Now, if those “everything has a reason” people puzzled over what the meaning is, I could understand it. But the phrase has become a way to avoid thinking, to shove the responsibility into a divine realm, where it cannot be questioned. And should not be. And that’s the part I have trouble with.

control/option keys

control/option keys

I don’t want to wander through my life, blindly believing there is a reason for everything but having no idea what that reason is. I want to know. If there is a lesson, I want to learn it. Otherwise, trips happen.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing to companies that are having trouble being heard or making themselves clear. She teaches PowerPoint for what it was meant to do–explain through words and images, rather than bullet points. Quinn is also a life- and creativity coach who helps people through change. She teaches people who can’t draw how to keep art journals.

12 thoughts on “Maybe It’s NOT “Meant to Be”

  1. There’s plenty of evidence that the universe is not simply running through a predetermined program, which is what a “plan” would amount to. Mentally ill people know all the answers too. Of course, in primitive cultures mental illness is often identified as “holiness”. It was probably planned that way.

    • It’s that “all part of some plan” that baffles me. Sure, I don’t have to understand the plan. I get that part. But what if I sit down and wait for the plan to happen. If I don’t take any action, is becoming homeless part of the plan? Starving to death? And if that is the plan, won’t it happen even if I work hard?

  2. My daughter-in-law, a woman of faith, insists that everything happens for a reason, for God’s plan. I point out to her that that is not very useful unless I can UNDERSTAND the reason or PREDICT the event. In trying to understand these reasons, I tell her, my best model is a generator of random events. That’s using “sh-t happens” as an explanation. I guess I’m not a person of faith, I loved your essay, and particularly your distinction between religion and spirituality.

    I’m hobbling around on one crutch after I fell on my foot and sort of crushed it on Saturday. I’m trying to accept that without looking for deeper meaning.

    • Being spiritual is harder than being religious. I will admit that I envy religious people. They have answers they can live with. They know where to go for comfort. They know the rules and the consequences. I keep trying to find the path. Although I’m pretty sure the answers are in the world around us–the Nature created for us for our pleasure and our education. But still, most people don’t experience a divine being directly, so I find it kind of mean to blame them for things.

  3. Whether something is “meant to be” is, of course, a matter of faith. I think Christians tend to believe it is. In Jeremiah 29:11 of the Bible one can read the following message from God: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope”. This passage should also be in the Torah.

    A Christian mystic, St. Faustina, said that Jesus told her: “I arrange things” (Diary of St Faustina, 1147). She later wrote: “Jesus gave me to know that even the smallest thing does not happen on earth without His will.” (Diary, 1262).

    When I experience situations that make me unhappy, I ask what lesson I should learn. It does not at all discourage thinking, quite the contrary. I also believe that most of my negative experiences can teach me more than the positive ones.

    There are so many things I do not understand. Yet, just because my little brain does not understand something, it is not necessarily a reason that it does not exist, or that it does.

    • I love your writing, Eva. I think the key lies in where we agree–that after an experience, one asks, “what should I learn?” That is, in itself, a prayer that can fill a lifetime. What I don’t get, or agree with, is just shrugging off events as “well, some divine being must have planned this somehow.” I think that squashes curiosity, hope, and change. After all, if it’s all planned, we don’t have to DO anything. I looked up Jeremiah 29:11 in the Nevi’im (Writings of the Prohets, the Torah=pentatuch, just the first 5 books) because sometimes my translation is different. Nope, it’s pretty much the same. We have a hopeful future. From the translator’s pen to God’s ear. As it were.

  4. Q – We must be spiritual siblings separated at birth. You hit on a topic that runs though my brain often, and I struggle frequently to keep my views quiet – I don’t want to ruffle feathers or insult others who have a more ‘traditional’ take on why things happen, or who’s responsible for actions. That said, the longer I live here in NoVa, the harder it is to keep it all in.

    I remember the quarterback who guaranteed a victory in the Superbowl (not Namath!) because he asked the (his) ‘good lord’ to answer his prayers for a glorious victory (in his name, naturally). Well, after 60 minutes of brain smashing & bone crunching (in the holiest of ways, of course), THEY LOST. So there you have it in a sporty-kinda way. Trips happen – on & off the field.

    Thanks for this post – I SOOOOO get it.

    • Maybe the quarterback on the other team said a prayer first. Or a better prayer. Or to a stronger god. Not to stir up a hornet’s nest here, but your sports story would go for wars, too, wouldn’t it?

  5. Well yeah, stuff happens. And we just have to deal. I think it is more important to recognize the reality of what happens and deal with it from a place of power rather than weakly deciding it is some fate you were meant to have happen to you. That way lies excusing bad treatment of others since “obviously” they were “meant to be” poor, disabled, wealthy, mean, etc…

    • It removes all that nasty responsibility for having to kick yourself in the butt and work on yourself. Or make a decision on how you want to handle stuff. I’m just not a Calvanist–I think he was the one who espoused predestination.

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