“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
That is a quote often attributed to Marilyn Monroe, a woman who had so much trouble dealing with things as they were that she took drugs to escape. Those decisions led to her tragic early death; shocking the people she loved, and leaving a nation who admired her wondering what had gone so terribly wrong.
But was she right? Does everything happen for a reason? Certainly the idea that events have a purpose can be comforting. Most people would love to believe that good things happen to people because they are good, and bad things will come to those who are not. Entire religions are predicated on this concept. But, karmic notions aside, as much as we want it to be true, sometimes it just isn’t. The fact is, bad people have good things happen to them, and bad things happen to good people all the time.
Taking another look at the Monroe quote above, her supporting evidence doesn’t seem to follow at all from the thesis. She hasn’t so much proven that there is agency or reason behind events, but only that good things can come from bad situations. At worst she points out that effects have causes, which is self-evident, and at best she has said that you can learn lessons when faced with normal, everyday life problems. It is the latter point where we can find some common ground.
Regardless of what happens, it is a good and positive thing to try and find a lesson in it somewhere. When you treat people well and make friends because of that, this serves as motivation to continue this type of behavior. But even when a tragedy occurs; the death of a loved one for instance, you recognize how precious life is, and how the happy moments you share with people are important and not to be taken for granted.
But children die from preventable diseases every single day. Genocides are transpiring right now in countries around the world. People in your neighborhood are likely living in poverty. There aren’t good reasons for any of that, despite what lessons we can take from these circumstances. Thinking that there are both ignores the issue and belies the fact that answers to life’s dilemmas don’t just come out of thin air.
There is no cosmic puppeteer pulling the strings, and things don’t just work out because you repeat a silly mantra. Problems require solutions, and solutions require creative thought. Thinking that “everything happens for a reason” isn’t creative at all. It is just lazy and irrational. And that doesn’t do anybody any good.