The following is the first chapter of my new book – published in November 2012.
The expression everything happens for a reason is ubiquitous. You hear people of all walks of life use it to refer to serendipitous events, chance encounters, karma, luck, and a whole slew of other circumstances, but how many of us think of what that phrase actually entails?
When you say everything happens for a reason, you are saying that there is a reason that some event happened the way it did. The connotation in the word reason implies that an event happened in a particular way because some mysterious force in the universe (some may call this force, God) has determined the outcome to be that way rather than another. I’ll illustrate this with a fictitious example.
One morning, Bill wakes up late. For some reason, his alarm didn’t go off and he now only has 30 minutes to be at his destination. In order for him to be on time, the following sequence of events must be carefully planned out.
Bill rushes out of bed and enters the kitchen. He sets the coffeemaker, plops a bagel into the toaster, and then hops in the shower. To save time, he shaves and brushes his teeth during his shower.
He gets out of the shower and quickly gets dressed. Fortunately for him, he has prearranged his outfit the night before. As he fastens his watch to his wrist, he glances at the time. If all goes right, he just might make it.
He races around his apartment gathering all the things he needs and sets them by the door. He puts his shoes on and is about to leave, but then he hears his coffeemaker beep, reminding him about breakfast. Perfect timing, he thinks. He fills up his thermos with coffee, places the bagel in his mouth, and then drags his suitcase out the door.
He sets his suitcase down in the hallway outside his apartment and pats his pockets for his keys. Where are my keys? he asks himself. Frustrated and wasting valuable time, he goes back into his apartment to search for his keys. He looks everywhere for them, but cannot find them. The last place he thinks to look is where they turn up.
He rushes down the hall and into the elevator. The elevator is quick to take him down to the parking garage. As soon as the elevator door opens, Bill clumsily exits and schleps across the underground parking garage to where his car is parked.
With a watchful eye on the clock, Bill races through traffic in an attempt to make up for lost time. He arrives at his destination, quickly finds parking, and runs to the check-in counter. As he tries to catch his breath, the representative behind the counter informs him that he has just missed his flight.
Bill leaves the airport frustrated and upset. On the drive home, he turns on the radio to calm himself down. The song that he was listening to gets interrupted by an emergency broadcast. The news is so shocking that he has to pull over and collect his thoughts. He learns that the plane that he was supposed to be on has just crashed shortly after takeoff.
Whatever frustration he initial had with the situation has now turned into sorrow. As much as he wants to be mournful of the great tragedy, a large part of him wants to run in the streets celebrating his life. He refrains from doing that, but counts his blessings that he misplaced his keys.
Bill takes out his cell phone and calls all the people who thought he was on that plane and tells them the story of how he missed his flight. A few of them tell him that he is lucky or fortunate, and some even tell him that everything happens for a reason.
Bill takes a few deep breathes and then he merges back into traffic. A few kilometers up ahead, he comes across a stranded motorist on the side of the road. Since Bill had just been given a major break in life, he feels duty-bound to stop and offer his services. After doing whatever he could for the fellow motorist, Bill continues on his way home.
For the next few months, Bill tries to live life to the fullest. He remains thankful that he was spared on the day of the crash, he takes full advantage of every moment. He changes his bad habits, improves his diet, joins a gym, volunteers, changes jobs… essentially he becomes a better version of himself. Instead of being content with life, he takes his new found zeal and pursues his dream job.
Eventually, Bill gets an interview. When he shows up, much to his surprise, the hiring manager turns out to be the stranded motorist that he had helped a few months ago. Fortunately, the manager has not forgotten about the good deed that Bill did for him that day and has returned the favor.
As Bill sits in his new corner office, gazing out at the incredible view, he has a chance to reflect on the series of events that has led him to be where he is now. A faulty alarm, a beeping coffeemaker, a misplaced set of keys, they all turned out to be catalysts for new and improved life. It’s at that moment that it dawns on Bill that none of this was an accident, none of this was chance – it was his destiny. He is not quite sure how or why, but he is certain that something caused those things to happen.
Article by Edward Mullen
Host of The Edward Mullen Podcast