Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Need for a Reason

Last month The Friendly Atheist started a great conversation on his blog about the saying It happened for a reason. I feel a bit as he does when I hear that. Usually I see a bit a lazy thinking when someone says that. If they looked really hard, they could find the true cause-effect reason, and the supernatural spiritual reason ends up looking a bit shallow. Buddhists are not immune to this, and this kind of thinking could be responsible for the degradation of the meaning of karma.

(completely random photo from my flickr pages, no wait it happened for a reason...)

Recently, after reading the book Taking Up Space, I had one of those inner conversations I talk about in my comment. In some parallel world (explained below), some Heidi didn't take up meditation, and she went through years of yo-yo dieting. Maybe she even underwent the awful gastric bypass surgery. In actuality, when I started meditating, I eventually could no longer diet because I could no longer ignore the signals from my body and my inner voice.

Here's what I said in the comments at The Friendly Atheist Blog:

great post.

I like wondering why people need this kind of belief. It fills a psychological need, what exactly I'm not sure. I think Darryl pointed toward it with the scene from Blade Runner. (I haven't seen it.) It responds to a fear of death, and a fear of inconsequence, I suppose.

When those special moments happen, I often think of parallel worlds, and that in some other parallel world some other Heidi did not start a meditation practice but instead became a sick drunk. Or some other Heidi really did swerve off the road into a deep ravine when Driving While too Emotional. Those close calls remind us of our mortality, and our victory over death seems to be a gift.

When those moments happen like a great parking spot happens, I like to say, "the cosmos is smiling on me." with a smile at myself for needing a little something more poetic than gratitude for mere coincidence.

I think psychologically there's a need to respond to something that feels bigger than this puny human existence. The simple way is to ascribe something happening for a reason so this existence can feel equal to the grand chaotic universe. Perhaps a more sophisticated way is to recognize the puniness and the grandness as equally important and that yes, my experience is the whole world, for me, and I am just a small part in the whole world.

I guess I am trying to flush out the psychological need for a spiritual existence. If I can understand, I can understand why people believe the things they do.

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