Reasoning for a good cause

“Same thing,” she said, waving off the comment and walking off toward the time-clock to punch out.

“But– no, it’s not …” I protested, and then stopped talking as I saw her leaving not only the the doorway where I stood, but our conversation as well.

If you could call it a conversation; I’ve had longer dialogs with fellow elevator riders.

It was hard to stop my rebuttal. I so wanted to explain, and having to force myself to stop in mid-sentence (hell, mid-mini-monologue) is hardly my style. But I diligently keep practicing social skills, including noticing when others have quit a topic.

Having already clocked out, I gave up, left the building, and even waited to get into my car before expressing my complaints aloud to no one — except a fruit fly uselessly orbiting the fragrant-but-empty lunch bag I had just tossed onto the floor.

And a fruit fly doesn’t give a gnat’s ass about the seemingly subtle difference between reason and cause. No, it is not mere semantics, and they are not exact synonyms.

“So how was your trip?” she had asked as we met in the hallway. We had not yet crossed paths that day, delaying the obligatory Monday morning chit-chat.

“Oh it was lovely, except for missing a connecting flight, so I was only there two days,” I began. And I was proud that I had even mindfully planned ahead to next ask her if she’d ever been to Boston, thus fulfilling my offering volley in the chit-chat process — when she gave me that totally unexpected, inexplicable response:

“Well you know, ‘Everything happens for a Reason’ !” She chirped, nodding sagely.

“You mean a cause,” I began.

“Same thing,” she said, waving off the comment and walking off toward the time-clock to punch out.

“But– no, it’s not …” I protested.*

Things happen from causes, but claiming there was some cosmic “reason” for me to just-miss my connecting flight was way too teleological.

Being slowed by a tender foot and heavy luggage, plus the inevitable need to find a bathroom (because of course you can’t go pee during that last stage of a flight, especially when it’s turbulent), and then getting to the gate at the other end of the airport just a few minutes too late, all of those are what caused me to miss my flight. (It was likely over-booked as well, so they may not have “missed” an extra passenger.)

And there was certainly no divinely-inspired, soul-improving plan for my boyfriend to be left standing patiently but futilely at the other airport, or for me to be spending a night without my luggage, in a crummy hotel room without a working tub-stopper, and getting up a few hours later to schlep back through the airport and the TSA pat-down all over again.

(Yes, in the grand scheme of things, that all was just a major inconvenience. But you know, I’m 50 years old; I’ve had my share of both inconveniences and actual crises. I already know the difference. It wasn’t an educational experience, just a major bummer and an annoying pain in the arse.)

You know what really irks me about the whole divine-plan “things happen for a Reason” nonsense? When there is a catastrophe, and people go around saying things like, “God saved him/her for a Reason.” Wait, what about the people who didn’t survive? Why not? Now that’s just beyond capricious. How can a rationale like that be comforting? Frankly, your idea of divine intervention sucks.

No thanks. Really, I am much more comfortable knowing that I live in a universe where there are causes and effects. Yes, there is plenty of random chance, and once in a very great while you get the big wins from incredibly small odds, but those aren’t miracles. Sometimes you get the big losses too, and that’s because shit just happens.

But it’s not personal! It’s not that the universe doesn’t care about you; rather, there is no special “it” to care.

As a gal in the Entomology department used to say, “Sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the windshield”.**


* I gave up pursuing that topic after a second try the following day. Then again, this was the same gal to whom I have explained that “magnetic” bracelets and Airborne really don’t do anything, and she has said she doesn’t care because she feels like they help her.

** I neither tried to kill nor free the fruit fly, but left it to its own devices. Perhaps it flew off when I stopped to refuel my car, or maybe it breathed its last, sniffing around my car floor while still in search of the unobtainable, mythical banana.

1 Comment

  1. adkyriolexy said,

    4 March 2012 at 16:39

    It’s true that everything happens for a reason (or a series of reasons), even when the reason is unknown or random chance. In a literal sense, of course everything happens for a reason—why else would it happen? The flaw in the “everything happens for a reason” line of thought is that when people say this, they generally mean “everything happens for a good reason,” or “everything happens for the best.”

    Someone falls off a platform and breaks his leg—does this happen for a reason? Whatever factors led him to that height, gravity pushed him towards the earth and the force of impact with the ground caused a breakage. Happened for a reason, yes. Happened for the best? There’s no grounds for believing so. Certainly no grounds for believing, as its logical conclusion would suggest, that this person *needed* to experience this injury at this time, and that measures which could have been taken to prevent it (such as a secure railing around the platform) would have been useless if not actually harmful. If the best of all possible outcomes is predetermined, then we either can’t or shouldn’t take any steps to affect them. This is, of course, impossible.

    The closest I would come to believing that “everything happens for a reason” (in the “for the best” sense in which it’s colloquially meant) is that everything serves a purpose, which is to say, everything serves a function, even if that function is not wanted or not completely understood. Unlike “for a reason,” this does not mean that nothing should be changed or prevented (which would be impossible), but that the mechanisms of the outcome being prevented should be understood in order to avoid doing further harm in the prevention.

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