I've often heard it said that “everything happens for a reason.” People usually mouth this maxim to those who suffer some unfortunate occurrence in an effort to explain terrible misfortune. The typical response is confirmation that ill fate, although diminished through every possible human precaution, is part of a master plan unknown to mankind. Once sealed through simple offer and acceptance, the fateful contract is complete and neatly filed away in the minds of both parties until called upon to give reason for the next inexplicable event.
Does everything really “happen for a reason”? If it does, I am pretty sure the word reason is the wrong denotation for the time-worn justification. A reason is commonly understood as a logical conclusion, judgment, or inference. Humans use the faculty of reasoning as the process through which they perform the thought to reach these logical explanations.
How do skills of reasoning help explain something that is, by human understanding, entirely unreasonable? Such an event so shocks the human brain that, despite the search for its justification, a person cannot find evidence to help relieve his suffering and restore his peace of mind. The matter is concrete, completely real and tangible – something horribly explicit that must remain eternally enigmatic.
Most people accept belief in fate because it makes their lives easier. Believing in fate or destiny keeps many people from going insane for lack or reasoning. When something bad or hopeless happens in life, it is much more comforting to think that fate or a higher power “directs everything the way it is.” Even those who reject God or who deny destiny court the comfort offered through these beliefs when their suffering or fear becomes too intense. Total loss of control and understanding becomes something unbearable unless a little faith emerges to evoke a smidgen of hope.
But, if all things are predetermined, why would a person attempt to make the right conscious decisions? Christians who believe in free will accept the understanding that people can make their own plans and walk their own earthly paths – choosing whether or not to accept the gift of salvation. So, if God is not sitting up in heaven and micromanaging the world, He is not causing bad things to happen.
Which brings us back to square one – “everything happens for a reason.” If misfortunes that are not explainable by human science and reason afflict mankind, and these troubles are not explainable as the will of God, who the hell holds the blame? I understand that someone may tell a person who suffers a calamity that a reason for the awful occurrence does exist in order to make that person's pain easier to bear, yet why should anyone convey sympathy with such an offhand, unsupported observation?
And, you still answer “because it is true that some reason must exist for everything that happens.”
I would then reply to you: “I don't think so.” The operative word is reason. Man, in his finite mind, believes that reason is imperative. Could it be that God or the hand of fate does not even understand such a concept as insignificant human “reasoning”? Could it be that reason, as we know it, isn't a concern of a heavenly being? Could it even be that reason in simply not a necessary understanding, and in many cases, does not exist at all?
So, should you question Aristotle, Plato, Locke, Bacon, Pythagoras and all the learned human thinkers? I believe so.
Oh, and scientists, I know you can explain how randomness is literally built into the very fabric of the universe. And, if you take any bit of mass/energy down to a small enough scale, randomness is required to mathematically describe it. And, then you can explain that the Chaos Theory tells us that, whenever a physical situation is described by nonlinear equations (a very inclusive scenario), then the projected outcome, while deterministic, is exquisitely sensitive to the exact initial conditions.
And, you can put these two ideas together and tell me it's pretty hard to escape the notion that a lot of physical reality has at least some randomness built into it.
When you confront me with all of that knowledge and theory, however, you still attempt to give me reason. Therefore, you attempt to tell me the "reasons" for “randomness.”
I simply ask you to consider that reason,
in any sense of the definition, is often nonexistent.
Reason is a characteristic of human nature that relies on mental processes. Since the brain is used to process all reasoning, its built-in physical limitations and boundaries are apparent. I believe a reason for randomness cannot be explained in deterministic chaos. The best efforts of human understanding including the fields of physics, engineering, economics, biology, and philosophy cannot begin to explain reasons for chaotic, often tragic, events.
Philosophy, itself, is sometimes described as a life of reason, with normal human reason pursued in a more consistent and dedicated way than usual. Two categories of problem concerning reason have long been discussed by philosophers concerning reason, essentially being (1) reasonings about reasoning itself as a human aim, or (2) philosophizing about philosophizing. Is this clearing up any muddy waters or merely stirring the obscurity? Maybe my brain is just too limited to comprehend such reasoning and philosophy because such round-about probing confuses me more.
Here are two questions for all:
- “Can we be confident that reason can achieve knowledge of truth better than other ways of trying to achieve such knowledge?”
- “Is a life of reason, a life that aims to be guided by reason, be expected to produce a happy life more so than other ways of life (whether such a life of reason results in knowledge or not).
I think, in some cases, looking for reason is non-productive.
It produces no “truth” as we understand the concept of “conformity with fact.” At times, there is simply nothing we can learn from a quest for understanding. And, being human, we must face up to the fact that our “happy” lives (fortunate to whatever degree) will occasionally be interrupted by totally unreasonable events and circumstances in our natural surroundings.
I don't plan to offer “everything happens for a reason” as consolation because, to me, that thought is empty and void of understanding. I hope to convey to those in need of solace that some “reasons” simply do not exist to explain life's most perplexing blows. A human didn't cause them. A loving higher power didn't cause them. I, personally, don't believe a sin caused them. And, certainly our means of reasoning, no matter how powerful, will never give adequate explanation in grounds of science, thought, or religion. I believe they present us all with a lesson of life we simply must accept: “Some things that happen are simply incomprehensible.”