August 1, 2010

Everything happens for a reason that I make up

Not long after my partner died, an old friend arrived at my home unannounced, to offer her condolences. 

At the time, Lou had been travelling around Australia with her new lover, a younger doe-eyed, hippie-chick with sun-kissed dreadlocks and too much turquoise jewellery. 

When they arrived, I was out of my mind with grief and exhaustion (not to mention being medicated up to my eyeballs on valium), and I was not in the headspace for entertaining, particularly someone that I had never met. 

As we all sat outside on the verandah, smoking and sipping tea, Lou's girlfriend took hold of my left hand and proceeded to read my palm. 
After reeling off some nonsense about the long and abundant life up ahead of me, she began caressing my fingers, softly, as though we were about to make out.  

'Lou tells me that you recently lost someone very close to you', she whispered, as though it were a secret. 
I nodded my head. 'You know Misha, even though you might not feel it right now, everything happens for a reason'. 

I immediately pulled my hand away and lit a cigarette. I was deeply offended and I wanted to be sick. For the next 30 seconds I tried hard to contain the feeling of disgust that was bubbling up inside my stomach.  

In the end I couldn't keep it down. 'I don't know you, I said, and you certainly don't know me, so please don't come to my home where I am grieving, feel free to read my f*ck*ng palm and then tell me that everything happens for a reason'. Everything is not happening for a f*ck*ng reason'. 

Almost three years later and I am no closer to finding a reason for the way things have turned out. And despite the sentiment of other well- intentioned, turquoise wearing folk, I am actually grateful that I have been able to move through the process of grief without relying on that comfort. 

It may surprise you to learn that as an atheist, I am a deeply spiritual person. While I may not have followed the conventional route, I have carved out my own spiritual path with deep connections to nature, morality and humanity - it just doesn't include the omnipresent mythical spirit, God or otherwise, who has orchestrated a  cosmic plan. 

The way I see it, things happen to each of us that can bring great pleasure or great pain and inevitably change your life forever. I do believe that in order to find our way through the chaos, people choose to believe that these events happen for a reason. It was meant to be - you tell yourself this, as a way to understand things. 

Attaching meaning becomes in itself, an afterthought, a coping mechanism when the pleasure or the pain are too much to absorb. In order to make sense of pain and suffering, I have seen people try to weave each twist and turn of life into some coherent whole - to fashion the specific meaning they need, because without meaning - from God or an alternate creator - then we are ultimately alone. 

But in order to live truthfully, I have had to forgo this comfort and accept that there is no cosmic plan for each of us, just a story that you tell yourself after the fact.  The absence of reason does not scare me, on the contrary, there is freedom in the thought that all pleasure and pain is random; that nothing is personal. It feels wonderful to me, like finally being unhinged. 

Mysteries are not necessarily miracles and people do not die or suffer so that other people can work out how to live better lives. Actually I find that concept a little creepy.  It is true that in my experience of losing Chance, I have decided to make my life count for more than I had done before. I have quit drinking and smoking, gone back to study and even started this blog. 

We all learn and grow from both good and bad experiences but that is not the same thing as attaching some cliched, new-age, bumper sticker onto those experiences in order to explain them away. 
When I think about the third world, about the countless number of men, women and children who's entire lives (and deaths) are determined by the place in which they are born; where life means malnutrition, aids, starvation, torture, rape, disease and horror... I wonder if in the midst of all that suffering and survival, they ever stop to ponder the way in which everything is unfolding for a reason. 

Or does the 'theory' (or 'law' as I have also heard it referred to) in all of its mystical wonderment, only apply to a smaller section of the world's population born into more affluent circumstances; to the blessed white, middle-class demographic with a penchant for hypocrisy and self-importance.... 
What is the reason for that massive disparity I wonder.  

*Can I please just ask politely again for all comments to be left here rather than on Facebook. I love receiving each and every comment and this way I can keep track of them as they are all saved in the one place. I encourage all opinions and relevant discussion*


melissa said...

exactly! So True Mish, when cosmically aggressive people try to condescendingly stuff the "everything happens for a reason" theory down my throat, I am offended. For the same reasons stated by you. Then I think about little Ethiopian girls getting raped on their way to school, and how is that serving their evolution, and that it was meant to happen?!!
This white supremacist hippie theory falls flat on its face. It is for the elite of this world who had time to ponder such things..The rest of the world is working its arse of, and does not have time to make up such rubbish.


mishaloula said...

Mel, I love the image of white supremacist and hippie ideals melded together - sadly though, you are right. Just in the same way other groups/factions of society can be aggressive with their dogmatic beliefs and ideals, so too can there be cosmic aggressiveness by the patchouli wearing section of society. (thats a technical term for hippies ). Personally, I am no less repulsed by 'cosmic aggressiveness' than I am by any other over zealous religious ideology being shoved down my throat. A strong sense of self importance and a lack of insight into the bigger picture is what irritates me the most. Thanks for the comment Mel.

john said...

good blog Mish, yes some people are clueless even when they think they are not.

And no there is probaby no real reason for the disparity of suffering cept circumsyance, in nature there are no reasons or mora or whatever..things happen due to resource expoitation and surviva instincts...

Snowbrush said...

Apparently many of those forgotten and destitute people who you wouldn't think would buy into the "everything happens for a reason" idea do buy into it. Of course, they call it reincarnation.

I'm genuinely puzzled. You rejected the woman's attempt to read your palm, yet you list one of your interests as astrology, a field of study that has the same amount of science behind it as palmistry, which is to say none.

Misha Sim said...

Snowbrush reincarnation means that the soul is reborn in a different body which is something entirely different from saying that everything happens for a reason....*. I wonder did you mean karma perhaps? Karma' is an Indian religious concept in contradistinction to 'faith' espoused by Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), which view all human dramas as the will of God as opposed to present - and past - life actions. Assuming that is what you actually meant, not all people living in the developing world are Indian and nor do they all believe in Karma. Secondly have you ever studied the field of astrology? Its a rather complex subject and one that I find fascinating to say the least (although I admit I am still learning how it all works). Snowbrush, If you read the blog post you would know that I didn't reject the woman's attempt to read my palm at all - and even if I had so what. Am I not allowed to like one thing and not the other? Thats as weird as saying if you like don't like apples you cannot like oranges - which is to say utterly ridiculous.

Snowbrush said...

Misha, karma and reincarnation both imply purpose. Reincarnation means that people are reborn in order that they might advance. Karma means that you reap what you sow.

My knowledge of astrology is limited and comes mostly from my mother (a believer) and from Carl Sagan. I compared it to palmistry in that neither is scientifically defensible. In fact, both run counter to scientific knowledge. I intend no offense when I say that I'm surprised (which I often am) when people reject a belief in a supernatural deity yet subscribe to a belief in things that are equally counter to all scientific evidence and therefore might be said to be equally based upon faith.

"If you read the blog post you would know that I didn't reject the woman's attempt to read my palm at all"

I did read it, but I obviously misunderstood. I thought you saw her as taking liberties (because she didn't ask permission before she took your hand) and attempting to assume an intimacy (by holding your hand as would a lover) that did not exist. I also thought that your disapproval was exacerbated by the fact that you disliked her from the beginning and saw her as being there at an awkward time. You said absolutely nothing good about her inasmuch as I remember without rereading.

Rob-bear said...

I came by from Snowbrush's blog, where you left a note.

Ironically, Crystal Jigsaw was recently discussing this same thing, from a different perspective. See:

I say the same thing I said to her:

I believe things happen for a reason. People die because their bodies give out — because of accident or illness. Period.

But beyond that, we may want to look back on the event and assign a reason that meets our needs — a reason which may not be consistent with the facts of the event, but which we make important for us. Or a reason that grows out of the event — "This happened, but after the fact, I learned/discovered/felt. …"

May your reason-making, and life-making, whatever you choose, bring you strength and joy, Misha Sim.

Misha Sim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Misha Sim said...

Snowbrush I think we got off to a rough start fuelled by misunderstandings - my apologies for that. Regarding your first point - why should that surprise you? The fact that I 'reject a belief in a supernatural deity' should have no relevance over my interest in aspects of the supernatural - and that includes astrology, taro, palmistry or anything else for that matter. Why does everything have to be so black and white? People have beliefs and the right to discern between them. People of faith do not necessarily believe in ALLl things faith based - thats why we have multiple versions of God/ religion. My lack of faith in God or spoilt rich hippies does not mean that I have a lack of faith in existence or the the planet (s) and the way in which it spins./ On the contrary - astrology is an ancient divination and there is, in my opinion more to learn about the universe from astrologers and the like than there has ever been from the leaders of organised religion. I internally rejected the palm reading because I was grieving deeply and because the girl gave me the shits - not because I am anti palmistry lol. In my experience, people are not black and white Snowflake, they are influenced
by any number of life experiences and their beliefs are often a reflection of those experiences. If that surprises you then so be it. My blog post was simply meant to hold a highly fashionable new age mantra - everything happens for a reason - up to the light in an attempt to discredit its merit. Thats all. Misha.

Misha Sim said...

Rob-Bear, I like the way you think. Thanks for stopping my by and sharing your thoughts on the subject. Misha

Snowbrush said...

"why should that surprise you?"

I don't know if you intended this as a question or as a rhetorical remark, so I will try to keep my answer brief. If you were an atheist because you held scientific analysis as the supreme means by which we can know objective reality, then your rejection of one belief that either has no scientific basis or stands in contradiction to scientific knowledge might be taken to imply your rejection of other such beliefs. It is not a question of black or white thinking, but of intellectual integrity. Of course, I wrote without really knowing why you are an atheist and, as it turns out, my assumption regarding your reasoning was in error.

Misha Sim said...

I don't see how it stands in contradiction to say that I am interested in Astrology (which it states on my profile) and that I do not believe in God. If this means that I am not wearing the atheist hat correctly then so be it. I did not stop believing in God to join a club or be "right" about things, or because of my allegiance with science - I stopped believing in God because I realised that all human experience is random. My profile also states I am interested in religion, trees and clouds but that does not mean I believe in astrology, religion or trees in the same people believe in God - these are listed as my interests not my beliefs.