It has become ritual among many to state with certainty every time a curve ball is thrown or a stick is thrust into the spokes of one's wheel,
"Everything happens for a reason."
I don't. I don't say it and I don't believe it. If I believed it, I would have to believe that someone or something was pulling the strings of my life. Someone other than me. And I don't believe that. I don't believe that life is like The Hunger Games, with a games master planting obstacles for me to surmount. I see life as a melange of (primarily) the results of our own choices and intentions, seasoned with a sprinkle of other folks' actions and swirled with a healthy dollop of randomness.
I understand the desire to seek meaning out of tragedy and I am not offended when my wonderful and caring friends and family tell me, "Everything happens for a reason." I recognize their love and concern and gratefully accept it, even if I don't share their philosophy. I don't think I am superior in my approach, it's just that the notion of a life manipulated by some "other" has little meaning for me. It brings me no peace to believe that there is a god somewhere who throws hurricanes and blizzards around so that we can all learn a lesson. I take no comfort in searching for the greater good behind a friend's death from cancer.
For me, the meaning that comes from these events is in how we react and what we learn from them. And that can't be determined before the event takes place, only after, sometimes long after. Accepting that life has a randomness and refusing to allow that randomness to embitter oneself, THAT is the reason for those tragic things that happen.
So here I sit, at Panera, typing away on my laptop after the house fire. We had smoke detectors with working batteries that awoke us in the wee hours of Sunday morning. We had the furnace inspected, filters changed, duct work cleaned. We left no candles burning nor unattended pots on the stove top. We used only licensed electricians for work on the house since we bought it. We had a home inspection before we purchased it last May. There was no reason that this fire happened. None. It was random. Of course, there was a cause, but nothing we did that could have prevented it.
Which is not to say that we cannot learn from this. We will learn humility, by accepting offers of help. We will learn gratitude, by remembering that what is truly important was not destroyed. We will learn resilience, by hanging on tightly to each other as we navigate the next few uncertain weeks. We will practice compassion and humor and love.
We will accept that there are things outside our control and we will live fearlessly in spite of that.