Everything happens for a reason

Everything happens for a reason and this reason is usually physics

graffiti on tile

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How many people do you know who – even though they don’t profess any sort of religious affiliation – are convinced that “everything happens for a reason”? Or else they say particular things are “meant to be” … or “not meant to be”.

An example: A customer comes into the store you work in and looks at a set of dinner bowls, or a beautiful French knife, a hand-crafted scarf, or a pair of gold earrings. You come out from behind the counter and spend time with the customer, attentive without being pushy. You know she really wants that lovely thing, and you intuit that she’s trying to convince herself it’s okay to make the purchase.

“If it’s here when I come in on pay-day,” she tells you, “I’ll know it was meant to be.” And you realise there’s a ‘back-story’ underlying her behaviour – one about which we know virtually nothing – like the string of silk handkerchiefs a magician might pull from his sleeve at a children’s birthday party. (Yes, it’s a trick, a deception, but very effective when expertly handled.)

“Everything happens for a reason and this reason is usually physics.” I’m on Facebook, and this meme has been posted by a page calling itself Empty and Meaningless. One pedantic person has commented: “Except that it’s called a ’cause’ instead of a ‘reason’.” Yeah, yeah. Yadda yadda yadda.

The point is that the machinery of “life, the universe, and everything” operates on the basis of cause and effect. Chaos theory and quantum physics have tried to explain it, of course, with talk of things like the butterfly effect – but it’s still mindbogglingly complicated.

And what about when things go wrong? Do they really happen in threes? “The perceived perversity of the universe has long been a subject of comment, and precursors to the modern version of Murphy’s law are not hard to find” (Wikipedia: Murphy’s Law). But there’s nothing perverse about it. Everything that could possibly happen is waiting in the wings, eager for its opportunity, its big moment. And as soon as it gets a chance, it’ll happen. Don’t take it personally.

But of course we do tend to take everything personally. And rightly so, because each of us lives in a unique – and uniquely personalised – world that exists only in our mind. “Reality is not what it seems to be, nor is it otherwise” (Tibetan Buddhist teaching). Furthermore, “We don’t know what matter is any more than we know what mind is” (Christian de Quincy, in The Paradox of Consciousness).

So if most of what is happening within us and around us can be explained by (or at least attributed to) physics, what else is there which – albeit less frequently and/or less likely – might have something to do with driving what’s happening?

There’s a Talmudic tradition that “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow’.” Alan Lurie explains that “everything yearns to grow; it is an inherent drive embedded in all creation”(Listening To The Call Of Growth). “According the Talmudic writer, one of the forces that angels carry is the urge to grow – to develop, improve, and evolve. By noting that even every blade of grass is imbued with this urge, the Talmudic saying teaches that, like light, gravity, and electromagnetism, growth is a ubiquitous force of nature.”

Life is opportunistic. Everything yearns to grow.

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NOTES:

1/ The origins of Yadda yadda yadda can be traced back with certainty to the controversial comedian Lenny Bruce in the early 1960s (see The Straight Dope for further information).

2/ Recommended reading: Consciousness and Reality (Peter Russell).

3/ “Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” (René Magritte)

 

 

Our own rejected thoughts

waterfront #072 (19 May 2011)

waterfront #072 (19 May 2011)

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In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. (Ralph Waldo Emerson

Genius often consists of looking at something differently. A true work of genius often reminds us of thoughts we’ve had, but not been able to follow through. Although these thoughts are familiar, the genius has turned them into something we could not manage; they are “alienated” by having been taken where we could not follow, and have the “majesty” of the completed achievement of the work. (Samwise, Yahoo Canada Answers)

A special kind of déjà vu can happen when we encounter a great work of art. It’s like looking in a mirror – we see some facet of ourselves, something we recognize and have seen before. But maybe what we see makes us rueful, envious, or just uneasy. So what’s going on there?

Wishful thinking? … or a crisis of confidence?

Why do we so often reject ideas that subsequently – in the hands of “someone cleverer, more talented, more creative” – turn out to be really powerful, useful, or inspiring?

Could it be that we reject the ideas that come to us because we are afraid that nothing we might do with that idea could ever be “good enough”? (Whatever that means.)

Anxieties take many forms, but they seem always to get in the way, blocking us from doing what we really want to do. Emerson urged his readers, “Always do what you are afraid to do.” John Cage went so far as to suggest that “There is nothing we need to do that isn’t dangerous.”

In Rule 6 of his 8 Rules of Writing, Neil Gaiman says: “Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”

American baseball star Yogi Berra offers intriguing advice: “When you come to a fork in the road … take it.” (I don’t think he was talking about collecting cutlery.) Emerson, on the other hand, urges: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

There’s a lot to be said for simply giving oneself wholeheartedly to life, without fear and without stint.

With the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes in mind, St Paul encouraged the Colossian Christians: “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart …” (Colossians 3:23-25) Ecclesiastes continues: “for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.”

What is more mortifying than to feel that you have missed the plum for want of courage to shake the tree?  (Logan Pearsall Smith)

Yet to be proven

Loose : a wild history (cover)

Loose : a wild history (cover)

‘I want to get published!’ my heart cries out.

‘But you can’t!’ my mind says.

‘How long will it take them to recognise my genius?’ my heart says.

‘Probably for the rest of your life,’ my mind says. ‘But then why do you bother? Books are not important. Life itself is.’

‘But I want to get published because I am good and I am better than most published authors here in this country!’ my heart cries out again.

‘Well, that has yet to be proven,’ my mind says.

(Ouyang Yu, in Loose : A wild history)

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Ouyang Yu. 2012. Loose : A wild history. Adelaide, SA: Wakefield Press.

“The novel combines fiction with non-fiction, poetry with literary criticism, diary with life writing, with multiple stories weaving in between, told from different points of view by different characters.” (Wakefield Press)

See my previous post on the topic of Ouyang Yu: https://xties.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/on-new-years-eve/

Creating possibilities

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. (Henry David Thoreau, in Walden)

One website I visited today in search of Thoreau assured me that “This favorite quote from Henry David Thoreau is perfect for that special iconoclast in your life …” (They were, of course, keen to sell me something.)

Yuk! I muttered. I have no wish to be anybody’s “special iconoclast”. Seeing those two words strung together like that forcibly brought home to me how cunningly those who see themselves as ‘normal’ and ‘sane’ and ‘ordinary’ use language to quarantine us, assigning us to taxonomic pigeonholes intended to render us comparatively harmless.

Okay, I’m doing a bit of a rant. But I’m not going to self-edit … I’m going to leave it in for once. 

And now that I’ve looked my feelings of disappointment, futility, frustration, ineptitude and failure squarely in the eye …

You might have noticed that I haven’t specifically mentioned blogging; that’s because what I’m talking about doesn’t apply only to blogging. I’m guessing you will by now have seen exactly where it relates to you.

Instead of creating expectations of what should or should not be happening, cooperate with the form that this moment takes. Bring a ‘yes’ to the isness, because it’s pointless to argue if it already is. A greater intelligence is available to you when you no longer reject, deny, or ‘don’t want’ what is. (Eckhart Tolle)

PS: Let me repeat this little snip from Wikipedia, which I used in a comment on my previous post: “Mindfulness, which is an attentive awareness of the reality of things (especially of the present moment) is an antidote to delusion … This faculty becomes a power in particular when it is coupled with clear comprehension of whatever is taking place.”

Let this monkey go

The ego is a monkey catapulting through the jungle:
Totally fascinated by the realm of the senses,
   it swings from one desire to the next,
   one conflict to the next,
   one self-centered idea to the next.
If you threaten it, it actually fears for its life.

Let this monkey go.
Let the senses go.
Let desires go.
Let conflicts go.
Let ideas go.
Let the fiction of life and death go.
Just remain in the center, watching.
And then forget that you are there.

(Lao Tzu, from Hua Hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu translated by Brian Walker)

Language is a skin

Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. (Roland Barthes)

“The Road Home” takes some wrong turns

“I think most people embrace religion because it gives them a set of rules,” Sam said. “They tell themselves as long as they follow those rules they’ll be happy. But how often those same people hurt others, or themselves? How often are they still miserable? That’s what I find so interesting. They follow the rules and they still aren’t happy.” (Michael Thomas Ford, in The Road Home)

The Road Home (cover)

The Road Home (cover)

The review posted by Jackson Case on After Elton — “the pop culture site that plays for your team” — does some straight talking: “The book is definitely readable, written in Ford’s trademark breezy style. But somewhere along the way, the plot takes several strange turns. 

“Weirdly, the most important storyline in the book, the romance with the 20-year-old, never really goes anywhere.”

Click on the image to read the review in full, or take a look at what various other reviewers say about the novel on Amazon.

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Ford, Michael Thomas. 2010. The road home. New York: Kensington Publishing Group [p191]