“Everything happens for a reason”:
’This is a popular saying in the United States, often offered in the form of condolence or consolation. The adage is so vague and widespread that it never rings in my ears as a clear assertion, but rather as a desperate, threadbare defense against the obvious conclusions to be drawn from a child getting cancer or someone being struck by lightening: that absolutely nothing happens for a reason, because there are no reasons. Yes, there are certainly causes, always, but in this aphorism, “reason” is a direct substitute for “meaning.” “Everything happens for a reason” asserts a grand plan full of meaning, even if you cannot always discern it.
But of course whenever someone utters this cliché, it immediately shakes me out of whatever stupor of possible meanings I was indulging, and reminds me that there are no cosmic plans, no meanings big or small, discernable or otherwise. That there is no morality or ethics, just our fabrications of them, and that there is certainly no Master Plan through which our lives unfold like pieces on a chessboard.
And in those moments I often feel very alone, not because of the stark reality of meaninglessness, but because I am talking to someone who thoroughly embraces meaning, and am not inclined to puncture their fantasies. Why? Because if there is one of these artificial meanings that I tend to live my life by, it is the effort to avoid causing unnecessary pain. To not be cruel. To not cause someone else’s lived experience to be needlessly awful. And so when someone tells me that everything happens for a reason, I do not respond with a brief treatise on life’s ultimate meaninglessness.…’
— Akim Reinhardt, 3 Quarks Daily