In 2010 I lost my job, my house, and most of my worldly possessions. These events were bookended by having my heart broken and putting down my dog.
“Everything happens for a reason,” some might say. And it is true that my actions contributed directly to the tenure being denied and the house burning down. Thor was going to die anyway, though even that would have happened later if I hadn’t made the decision for him that he had endured enough. Similarly, the heart-breaking woman and I had endured enough as well.
Those truths aside, I don’t believe that there is someone up in the sky that is directing the goings on down here on Earth. I also find offensive the notion that bad things happen to people for a reason, that somehow those things were deserved. The way the story goes, the bad stuff that happened to that Job guy in the Bible happened because a cruel and capricious God made a bet with Satan. I have to wonder why someone would want to honor a God who would do such a thing. Sure, after the bet was won, Job ended up with new fortunes and new children to make up for those that Satan took away, but it still seems like a pretty crappy thing to do to someone who’s doing everything right. That story is certainly not one that makes me think that everything happens for a reason.
Somewhere along my trip, I met someone who believed that things happen for a reason, and that belief brought her peace. There is peace in believing that one’s current situation, no matter how bad, has happened for some future good, and that in time the silver lining will be revealed. Some eastern religions similarly embrace the notion that enlightenment comes from learning to embrace the world as it is rather than some other world. That makes some sense to me.
I could, for example, long for a world in which fewer publications are required for tenure and candles are, in fact, extinguished. Oh, and in this world dogs live forever and people I fall in love with have the same conception of what love is that I do. That world does not exist. I cannot be angry that I lost my job and my house burned down any more than I can be angry that I cannot fly. Actually, I am a little pissed about that. I was pretty sure we would have flying cars by now.
I do not embrace the belief that things happen for a reason–that somehow what I really needed was to lose everything in order to find a better life. I imagine–even still–I could be happy in that other world in which I had a wife, family, career, and the lifetime’s worth of possessions that I lost, and maybe even a dog.
In this world, though, my life is much better than I ever could have imagined. My retirement cannot last forever. I do hope that I acquire some source of income while I still have enough money for some furniture and a sizable down payment on a diminutive house. Right now, though, it’s sixty degrees and sunny. I’m going to stop writing and go walk on the beach.