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)

 

 

We can’t all be right … or can we?

vast emptiness nothing holy

vast emptiness nothing holy

I have more than a few friends who all seem desperately to need to be right. Each and every one of them has a favourite topic – a hobby-horse – and an incontrovertible line of argument.

And well-thought-out opinions, in fact, on every subject, whether crucial or trivial.

But they don’t agree among themselves … and not one of them agrees with me.

There must be some over-arching or all-embracing truth somewhere, but the only thing I’m sure about is that I haven’t got it sussed.

It would appear that the “grumpy cat avatar” has become a sacred icon, an oracle, the mouthpiece of truth. Click on him and you’ll find he redirects to a painting by Seki Seisetsu (1877-1944), which features the same text.

And when you’re done with that, you might look at a piece about some famous words of Seng-ts’an: “Do not seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.”

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“Do you ever doubt your own ideas? All the time. You should read what happens in linguistics. I keep changing what I said. Any person who is intellectually alive changes his ideas. If anyone at a university is teaching the same thing they were teaching five years ago, either the field is dead, or they haven’t been thinking.” (Noam Chomsky)

Wake up

John Cage. Portrait by Susan Schwartzenberg/ The Exploratorium

John Cage. Portrait by Susan Schwartzenberg/ The Exploratorium

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Our intention is to affirm this life, not to bring order out of chaos, nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord. (John Cage)

The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason. (John Cage)

No third thing

… experiencing runs of bad luck is part of life’s rich pattern. The key thing is to see them for what they are: an entirely predictable consequence of unpredictability. (Robert Matthews, in Matt’s stats: Why disasters come in threes

Three sisters

Three sisters

This morning, I carelessly lit a votive candle and placed it on a lacquered cabinet. If I hadn’t (later in the morning) noticed a smell of burning, there might have been a fire.

This morning, I opened my front door carelessly, and a boisterous wind-gust slammed it on my finger. If I hadn’t been quick to pull my hand away, there might have been a bruise.

So far this morning, there is no third thing. Before long, of course, there will be the next thing. Life being what it is, there is always the next thing – whether fortunate or unfortunate.

Perhaps the “rule of threes” helps divide the ongoing stream of mishaps, misadventures, miseries and demises into manageable chunks.

When a light-bulb blows, I tend to buy three … after replacing the old one from the ample stock I already have in the cupboard under the sink.

To end, here – courtesy of Wikipedia’s Rule of three (writing) – is a nice little Latin motto “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete).

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Thanks to The Book of Threes, which reports that “The ancient Native American technique of growing Corn, Beans, and Squash together in an arrangement called the Three Sisters is the ultimate in companion planting and helps increase harvests, naturally!” 

For readers who suspect a veiled Monty Python reference, here’s a link to the Comfy Chair / Sound Quiz from “Another Monty Python Record”.  

Something is really flying around

Image posted on Facebook by Empty and Meaningless (28 Oct 2012)

Image posted on Facebook by Empty and Meaningless (28 Oct 2012)

Unknown objects are operating under intelligent control … It is imperative that we learn where UFOs come from and what their purpose is … (Admiral Roscoe H Hillenkoetter, Director, Central Intelligence Agency 1947-1950, quoted on UFO Casebook)

This ‘flying saucer’ situation is not at all imaginary or seeing too much in some natural phenomena. Something is really flying around. The phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious. (Gen Nathan Twining, Chief of Staff, US Air Force, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, quoted on UFO Casebook)

We have no proof, but if we extrapolate, based on the best information we have available to us, we have to come to the conclusion that … other life probably exists out there and perhaps in many places … (Neil Armstrong, 21 Oct 1999, quoted on UFO Casebook)

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The image seems to have come from a Russian website: http://pikabu.ru/