The Frail Logic of “Meant to Be”

One of my favorite ways to help me make a decision or re-think a problem is to post it on Facebook or Twitter and ask for an opinion. I value other people’s perspectives and ideas. It helps my brain run in new rivers of thought.

Aboriginal art from the Gippsland coast.

The other week I asked a “should-I-or-shouldn’t-I?” question and got clever, good, and thoughtful answers. The one answer that I don’t fall into the flow with is “if it was meant to be, it will happen.”

I’m not a person who believes in predestination–that everything is pre-planned, and people are meat puppets acting out their destiny. It takes away that free-will decision making process that has taught me so much in life. (That’s nicer than saying “I made huge mistakes, and often.”)

And how far can I ride the “meant to be” stream? If my teeth are meant to be flossed, someone will come do it for me? If the mortgage is meant to be paid, someone will send me money? I know, those are far fetched, but I don’t know where the horizon line is in the “meant to be” scheme.

The first peoples of Australia (and Albert Einstein) believe in the Everywhen–a universal time in eternity, where past, present and future are all present.  In that case, I understand that my problem, decision and consequence are all visible at the same time. I can understand that.

For the life of me, I don’t understand that items will fall into my lap if someone (fate? destiny? a god?) declares it “meant to be.” If that were true, then I could work for years toward a goal, which has secretly been declared “not to be” and I wouldn’t know it. Or reach my goal. Or (and this is the big one for me) not know why I’m not getting close to my goal. Some of my finest learning has been discovering why my efforts are (or are not) moving me toward a goal, why failure happened.

Shrugging off failure, ineptness, laziness, as “not meant to be” also means I can sit in the same ineptness and laziness and expect something to work if it is meant to be.

So I’ll continue to be confused until I work it out. You know, if it was meant to be.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who is watching for an opportunity.

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.

“It was meant to be.” Really?

“God doesn’t give you more than you can bear.”
“If it didn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be.”

I just don’t believe it. I don’t believe some all-powerful force changes all the traffic lights when you deserve it, and makes them all red when you don’t. I don’t believe an invisible man with a big beard sends cancer down on someone just to prove they can bear it. I don’t think children suffer and die in their parent’s arms because “it was meant to be.” I don’t believe in luck.

That kind of thinking makes a god too much like people, doling out favors to some, denying others. I believe in a bigger power, a god that gave us nature to learn from. Last summer, as the trees in my Washington, D.C. neighborhood died a day at a time because it didn’t rain, I never for a moment believed it was divine will. I believe people who are not using the earth wisely are changing the climate and the trees are warning us. By dying, one by one, until we get it.

I believe we ought to climb out of our SUVs, come out of our climate-controlled its not luckhouses, stand on our front stoops and sweat. Look around and see what we have done. Humans perpetrated a lot of these things that were not ‘meant to be.’ Suffering that was born of our own making, not given to us to see what we could bear. That would make us not responsible for the stewardship of the earth, and in my simple way of thinking, that is our first responsibility.

Go grab what you have and fix what you can. You might not be in control, but you don’t have to rely on luck, and you don’t have to blame the almighty when things go wrong.

I don’t think people were born to suffer. I think we were born to be creative. I don’t have an answer for suffering, but I don’t think it has a purpose. I think we all die, some of us earlier, some of us later, and it’s good to know that at a young age and be ready. Tell people you love them. Do good. Fight for justice. When you come to the end of your life, you’ll know you’ve spent it well.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer who learns from standing on her front stoop and sweating. Even when it’s cold. (c) 2009 All rights reserved. Image: Journal page from my journal.