It was meant to be. It happened for a reason. Everything happens for a purpose.
Ever hear those phrases? I hear them all the time.
How do we know this is true, and why are we saying this unless we know it to be true? These phrases have gone from a random comment to being a meme.
A meme, according to my online dictionary, is “an element of a culture, or system of behavior, that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.”
Think about it. Did anyone say these things in the 1950’s or ’60’s? This wave of mimicry seems to have become established along side the New Age movement, and has taken a strong foothold in our speech and way of thinking.
But is it founded in truth? How can we know?
What we say reveals our metaphysics. While this is a term whose definition has become twisted to imply spiritual or other-worldly characteristics, it actually refers to the pursuit of knowledge of truth. Metaphysics is the first branch of philosophy, and answers the question “What is reality?”
When we say that everything happens for a reason, we are fundamentally expressing something we are taking for truth. A meme is not necessarily the truth; it is a popular saying that is insidious enough that it deserves examination.
To examine the truth of a concept, we turn to the second branch of philosophy: Epistemology. This branch deals with the source of our knowledge, and answers the questions, “How do we know this?” What is our proof that something is true and based in reality?
To be based in truth, or reality, a concept has to be true always. So if you say there was a purpose for a certain event, as though you are speaking the truth, you would have to be certain that the statement is based in fact. Otherwise, you are not speaking truth, but merely spreading a cultural meme. Stop before you speak, and ask yourself how you know your next words will be true? Do you really know the causation of a particular event, or are you simply parroting the words of the media or your friends?
To tell you the truth, I don’t believe everything happens for a purpose. I think that there are events that occur that are random and chaotic, and without a consciously directed purpose. I don’t believe all events were meant to be. To know that everything happens for a reason would require that an individual examine each and every event and never come up with an exception to the rule.
I can see how it can be fun to think that winning the lottery or meeting that special person was meant to be. And when there is a tragedy—an accident, an unexpected death, a natural disaster—it may be comforting to wrap oneself in the belief that divine purpose is being witnessed.
Yet, what about cruelty, crime, addiction, rape? Wouldn’t it be simplistic, and perhaps callous, to say a case of child abuse was meant to be, or that there was a purpose in that rape? We would have to do away with trials and imprisonment because the perpetrator was simply carrying out their fate, and the victim was simply fulfilling their role in this twisted scenario.
But maybe those situations only happened because someone with a strong sense of evil came up with a macabre idea, and no one with an even grander purpose intervened. If we can sing the lullaby that all things happen for a purpose, perhaps we seal our fate to being passive in the face of unthinkable evil.
During my recent visit to Cambodia, we visited the Killing Fields. What I am about to tell you isn’t pleasant—but reality is like that sometimes. If you seek reality, you cannot shy away from the cold hard facts. And for now, I think it is important to put your metaphysics to the test—do events always happen for a reason?
From 1975-1979, four short years not so long ago, the Khmer Rouge took reign over Cambodia in the wake of their civil war. In that span of time, an estimated 2.2 million people were tortured, killed and buried in one of 20,000 mass graves scattered around a country that is about half the size of Sweden. Most were intellectuals, scientists, educators…anyone with a higher education, plus anyone else deemed counter to the regime.
As I walked the Killing Fields, I could see scraps of clothing and bones emerging from the dusty ground; remnants continuously being exposed after rainfall. I had to ask myself, “Could I, in good conscious, say that it was meant to be? Could I feel truthful in saying, “It happened for a purpose”?
I didn’t like seeing this. I don’t like thinking about this. And I can’t imagine you are enjoying reading about it. But it is a part of history that was perpetrated by fellow humans residing on this planet. They are not the only ones in history, and this brutality continues today. We cannot turn away and hope it goes away. And we cannot explain it away by saying that it was meant to be.
We cannot seek consciousness and deny the facts of reality. And we cannot become unconscious of our thoughts, words, and cultural memes.
So, could you say all that happened for a reason? That somehow the perpetrators and victims were all part of some agreement to fulfill a purpose through this level of brutality and terror? And if it is not true that those events occurred for a reason, then those memes are lies. They are generalizations that are meaningless…except that they are delusions for the masses. When someone repeats them, they are spreading the seeds of lies. They are spreading the disease of unconsciousness through propaganda.
During our tour we also visited Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi, in communist Vietnam. Loudspeakers were mounted on poles at the corners of the street and in passing vehicles that would repeatedly broadcast slogans, propaganda, and news. This went on throughout the day and night both in regular voice and in a sing-song tone like a nursery rhyme. Most significantly, they played during the night while citizens were sleeping.
We didn’t understand the language, but after even a few days I found myself listening for it, curious, waiting to catch a little more, to hear the eery tune. I asked about the meaning, and was told that it was filled with messages about the goodness of communism, the fairness and justice of the laws, along with interesting news items.
Imagine hearing this hypnotic voice delivering “truth” from a can into your brain day and night starting at birth. It would be as ingrained as your ABC’s or Jingle Bells. It would feel good because it would remind you of when your mother rocked you. It would be as familiar and comforting as your mother’s voice.
Be very careful with slogans, bromides, and memes. They are infectious, but not necessarily the truth. They may be comforting, but they can also be deadly.
Raising your consciousness requires that you sharpen your awareness. Each time you hear a statement such as “It was meant to be”, or it slips out of your mouth, stop and ponder whether you really know that to be true, or is it an unconscious repetition of a meme.