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Everything happens for a reason

June 26, 2014

I see in the paper today that Jermaine Jones, who used to play football for Germany until he got dropped, and then went to play for the USA instead (he has dual nationality), says he’s happy with the way things have turned out, because ‘everything happens for a reason’.

Does anyone know when this fatuous bromide made its appearance? My impression is that it’s recent-ish – the last 15 years or so. All I know is that the first time I heard it I thought it was silly and blatantly false – everything happens for a reason? Really? Being struck by lightning? Falling under the wheels of a train? Getting cancer or motor neurone disease or Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s chorea (etc etc etc)? Being sexually assaulted by Jimmy Saville? And hearing it become a commonplace has only reinforced that initial impression.

The phrase is usually used when someone has had a piece of what looks like bad luck, and they respond in a positive way and things end up turning out well after all, as in the Jermaine Jones example. But to say that the original misfortune happened for a reason – ie in order to produce the eventual outcome, in accordance with someone’s plan (whose? God’s? Destiny’s? One’s guardian angel’s? Clothis, Lachesis and Atropos’s?) is a sickening piece of superstitious piety, and moreover utterly egocentric. Things may have turned out well for the person who says it, but they’re ignoring all the other things that happen to other people which don’t turn out well (I wonder if anyone would have the gall to say ‘Everything happens for a reason’ to someone whose entire family had been slaughtered in a massacre?). It’s a brainless homespun theodicy, and I hate theodicies.


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One Comment
  1. alexburrett permalink

    Voltaire shouldn’t have bothered writing Candide 254 years ago.

    On another matter, have you every covered “I offer an unreserved apology”?

    Why does the ultimate expression of regret (particularly when made publicly by people in authority) take the form of a third party concept? Why don’t people just speak in the first person, from the heart and say, “I’m sorry” or “I apologise”?

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