|6 years ago :: Sep 07, 2010 - 3:19PM #1|
It seems to have become a stereotypical, taken-for-granted idea that spiritual people should have an aversion to randomness. That if you have a religious-spiritual outlook you should think that “Everything happens for a reason”.
But is this really so, if you hold the spiritual view that there’s meaning and intentionality in the universe does this mean that you have to believe that any and everything whatsoever that happens is caused to happen on purpose by the Tao, the Dharma, the Divine, or whatever you prefer to call the dimension of reality that promotes the universe’s orderliness?
Do we really have to fall into such an all or nothing mindset when it comes to appreciating the fact that values and intention are intrinsic in the creative nature of existence? Do we have to either embrace the predestinarian position that everything is intended and that there’s no such thing as chance and choice, or swing the opposite way and utterly reject spirituality in favor of the secular-cynical viewpoint that everything is an accident and that there’s no such thing as meaning and purpose?
Well, there is another option, a perspective that sees the cosmic big picture as a collaborative work of art that each of us is constantly drawing freehand. According to this alternative perspective the organization and beauty of the universe is not achieved by a micromanaging deity imposing a tyranny that leaves no freedom for things to happen randomly. There remains plenty of such cosmic freedom, which helps keep life interesting and real.
Life would be downright fake and worthless if it were predestined to the point that everything happened for a reason. Come on now, how could any real values ever express themselves in a world artificially controlled down to the slightest detail by a control freak of a God or so tightly structured by dharma and karma that the spontaneity, naturalness, and whimsicality of life were completely and drearily eliminated?
Be your answer to this ethical question as it may, the ultimate nature of reality is, platitudinously speaking, creativity, and freedom is inherent in creativity. Each of us fully participates in and expresses this fundamental creativity and creative freedom. Freedom is our nature and the nature of the world! The world then can be and frequently is flat out capricious, giving us plenty of rope and scope for purely freak occurrences to happen.
Of course intentionality is also inherent in creativity, our creative universe is not entirely haphazard and chaotic either. This is because choice, like freedom, is of the essence of creativity, the intentionality of existence is just the sum of all the choices being made within it moment to moment. We all, from the least of us to God contribute some of the choice that makes life meaningful.
As for God, to speak pontifically for a moment, God is simply the self-awareness and central nervous system of all this cosmic choice, connected to and sending gentle directions to everything that help keep the world a constantly evolving, self-actualizing place with rhyme and reason to it.
What this all means is that the intentionality or Tao of the ole big picture is not supplied by an outside artist who compels us against our wills, it’s the intrinsic nature of the reality we take part in. Which is to say that we naturally and freely channel and flow with the transcendental intentionality of Creation. At the deepest level of truth freedom and intentionality do not have irreconcilable differences, they happily marry each other to eternally create this purposeful, noble, and glorious universe of ours.
So yes, the world is not a mad house in which everything that happens is senseless, things frequently do happen for good and cosmic reasons. But, then again, there’s enough freedom that sometimes “stuff just happens”. Not everything needs to happen for a higher reason! Every itch, sneeze, and belch that we experience does not arise from a heavenly master plan.
The conscious intentionality of creativity is always operating to work and weave every detail of our lives into the divine tapestry of the universe, but not every jot and tittle is dictated by God’s tapestry-making in the first place. Another metaphor would be that God is always trying to help us make the best of the hand we’re dealt but that he can’t stack the deck to the point that the element of luck is totally eliminated.
To put it plainly, everything is ultimately meaningful, but not everything is momentous to begin with or determined by deity. Accidents do happen! Yes, the game of life is a game not just of skill but of chance. Many of the seemingly trivial occurrences that make up our days truly are trivial, they have zero hidden significance. The universe is a place of freedom not fate.
Thinking that everything is somehow a sign of your personal destiny or God’s favor is not deep and spiritual, it’s egoistic. And it often implies and involves a kind of superstitious magical thinking that does not belong in enlightenment-oriented spirituality.
But what about the enlightened minds that have believed in karma, kismet, or laws that determine the entirety of what goes down in the universe? Albert Einstein, for example, famously said that he could not believe in a God who plays dice with the world, by which he meant that he could not believe in randomness. But that was because he couldn’t let go of the old-school determinism he had been steeped in coming up as a physicist in the 19th century.
Be that as it may, although describing God as a cosmic craps shooter suggests a cavalier and chaotic approach to steering the universe’s creativity, coping with and managing a good degree of creative randomness is in fact a part of the Divine’s job description. Which is a wonderful truth after all, it makes life more spontaneous, unpredictable, and exciting. And it makes our life choices genuine tests of character, and goodness a real possibility. If we lived in an unfree world in which absolutely everything was preordained life would get pretty mechanical and boring, and we would never make any real moral decisions of our own, so our goodness would be an empty hoax.
Yes, although it appears ironic from our human vantage point, only a world in which bad things are free to happen can have authenticity and therefore authentic goodness, worth, and interestingness in it. God really has no alternative, a world without freedom would be a mockery of creativity. It would be cosmic creativity mocking itself, and cosmic creativity doesn’t play self-mockery. So, like it or not, reality is “not determined by anything beyond its own nature”; we are very much at liberty to make mistakes, and to experience flukes that have no importance shrouded in the mystery of God. The idea that “everything happens for a reason” certainly fits in with the beliefs of various religions, but it’s not the only and arguably not the most insightful spiritual point of view ...
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