I’ve heard this expression for years, but it seems to have become quite popular (or at least, frequently-used) over the past few years. It is even the conclusion in the opening sequence for Drop Dead Diva.
In the purely rational, scientific, sense it is totally true. There is always a cause (or causes) for anything. I was laid off 5 years ago because the Sales Manager was told to do so. He was told to do so because his boss was told to cut in half the staff at each location. The one who told him to do that was told he had to cut his payroll by a certain number (whether that number was a specific dollar amount, percentage or head count I do not know). And so on up the food chain. The scientific approach is to presume there is a cause for every action; whether or not we yet understand it. The origin of the Universe, of physical existence, can be determined sometime, somehow.
More often the saying is used with another meaning; everything happens for a deeper reason. There is a pattern, a causing agent, a plan. And so I was laid off in order for the Universe to slap me upside the head; I was unhappy in that career. I turned 50 a few months before- clearly it was time for me to reawaken the dreams I had pushed down. I was meant to do important work and get my proverbial sh!t together. This definition of the phrase seems to assume not only a causing agent, but a benevolent one with good intentions, despite whatever discomfort or pain I might experience. I guess that could be comforting, but whenever I hear the phrase used with this the clear intented meaning, I have to ask “is the reason merely to amuse a capricious malevolent power? Would knowing that my pain is nothing more than a 3D movie to amuse a supernatural force really be more comforting than the thought that I was only laid off so that the company’s share price wouldn’t fall any lower?
This expression is particularly unnerving today, World AIDS Day. There are some malevolent souls who believe and preach that AIDS is gawd’s punishment. A slap upside the head to say that unbridled lust is really not his plan. Like the apple, it is a test. While lust is a natural part of the rest of the animal kingdom, somehow it is evil in humans. That gawd loves us so much we must suffer (which seems to be an unending part of the Christos mythology) although Jesus the Nazarene supposedly suffered so that we won’t. Sorry- a touch of logic.
Instead we do need to determine the real reason for aids. Not just so that we can blame someone/ something. A government plot to infect the population of Africa and reduce their numbers – long-term genocide – with the added ‘benefit’ of wiping out ‘deviants’ and drug-users? Great conspiracy theory. More likely it was not a conscious decision to infect; rather a lack of concern (and resources) as to the effects of poverty in “third world countries”. If there is criminal/ moral liability it needs to be uncovered. But much more important is the discovery of the physical factors that created the virus, continues to allow the virus to mutate, and how to eradicate it while curing those who are infected.
At best, if there is some deeper moral reason behind the spread of aids, it was to remind us of how interconnected we, and this planet, are. An impetus for us to chose to be better people; more loving, more caring, more thoughtful, more decent. Clearly not a rational reason- but to the degree my soul cries out for an answer, this one I can accept.
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.“
Jack Layton: 1950-2011 From his final letter to Canadians