In thinking about life and why things happen the way that they do, I can only compare it to a piece of literature. In a novel, unlike in life, the pages unfold to reveal unanswered questions. At 200 pages into the novel the reader can gain a sense of clarity about the reason behind situations, experiences and moments. In life, answers reveal themselves as well, but it can take months or even years to show us the ‘why,’ and for what reasons a higher power has chosen to bring us certain places, or introduce us to certain people. It comes down to the belief that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ Some people find it to be a rationalization or a “cop-out”; at least that is what I’ve heard, for me it has been a way of life, possibly even a religion.
Life philosophies can arise from moments that pull the rug out from under us, moments of complete surprise, and moments of deep despair. In my case it began with the belief: ‘whatever is meant to be will always find a way.’ Always wondering if life is either a series of events that leads us somewhere (or anywhere), or if every moment is disconnected from the one before, and all that seems to make sense is merely coincidence. I use the words ‘destiny’, ‘fate’, “serendipity,” ‘kismet’, and live the life that was “meant for me”, all the while questioning a purpose. Am I here today writing this essay because of some greater plan written by a higher power driving my words, my thoughts, and my future?
So – “everything happens for a reason,” a rationalization? Maybe. I tend to think of it as an answer, the reason. Not so much a rationalization, but a way of explaining the unexplainable, while giving hope to seemingly hopeless situations, and optimism to those experiencing pain, devastating loss, indecision, and confusion. It does not offer an answer, and yet in those words comfort arises. If it all happens for a reason, then all is not lost, then we can continue on without knowing, without understanding, and without the answers, because eventually all will be revealed.
No one knows exactly what happens before birth, or after death – (although, maybe they do), so it is difficult to know where we are headed, or where we have been. Why am I here today in this moment? I could question this thought for hours, and I have, although I’ve uncovered and discovered very little. I can map out my past and take note of how decisions, experiences, life-changing events, and the other individuals that have led me here, but this task seems daunting. Little-by-little I see how one moment led me to the next, how one mishap changed my life, how one person changed my life (or how I changed theirs). It always seems that these conversations and this thought-process in general, will go in circles. It leads nowhere, it leads back to the beginning, and it confuses even the most spiritual of humans.
Maybe I am just speaking from experience, and my own inner beliefs, but I find that the more I question life, existence, and God, and the more I understand, the less I understand. It is a paradox. The more I uncover, the more truths I seem to reveal, the less I know, the more lost I become. Sometimes we meet people on our ‘path’ and it seems like we needed to be in this moment, just to meet that person – life would not be the same without having met him or her, and every moment before led you to be there, and led you to this individual. On the same token, every moment in his or her life, led them to you. Many say “it’s merely coincidence” – in which case I tell them, “Coincidences are G-d’s way of remaining anonymous,” which is what I firmly believe. In meeting someone new there can be an instant connection. My first instinct is to wonder why. Maybe I look too deeply, maybe I analyze too often, but that is how I live my life, that is how I move forward when nothing seems to fit, when nothing seems to make sense. As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” How wise.
Moments of synchronicity, of “I was just thinking that,” of “I was just thinking of you and here you are,” happen every day. Signs point us in the direction we are meant to go, the universe shows us every step of the way where we need to be – many do not listen these signs, or to their inner-voice. There are those that live with the belief that we have complete control over our own destiny, and in fact, we create our own. I believe that to a certain extent, in that there is a path we believe we set for ourselves, but it was already there – we are just following the lives we were meant to lead.
There comes a moment in time when things seem to make sense, things come together – and then, the rug is pulled out from under us. During these times individuals can question their beliefs, question life, and completely feel at a loss. How could she leave? Why would he pass away so young? How could I have a chronic medical disorder that will last throughout my life? Why did this not work out? These questions will easily, or not so easily, result in the answer: “everything happens for a reason.” I do not have all the answers or the reasons for every moment in life, or why things happen the way they do, but the comfort is in knowing that that it happens for a reason, and it does. As Rainer Marie Rilke says, “Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
Maybe life is more like a play, than a novel – the stage is set, the actors are in place, and the lines and scenes are given, although oftentimes mishaps occur on stage and improvisation needs to take place. Life is leading you to somewhere, or anywhere, and we have to follow the path laid out for us. We can take different paths to get there, but in the end we will ultimately fulfill our destiny, our goals, and our dreams that were placed within us before birth, as we live the life that not only we have imagined for ourselves, but the lives that were meant for us.