May 1, 2023
SF Gate

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, FRCP

Why do people say, “Everything happens for a reason”? Much of the time it is for reassurance. In the wake of a seemingly random event (usually a bad event), it offers a measure of comfort to believe that there was a hidden purpose behind it. Otherwise, life would seem too random and accidental. Saying that there’s a hidden purpose at work is the equivalent of a religious person saying, “It’s God’s will.”

Both are metaphysical statements. “Meta” is a Greek root word for “beyond,” and looking beyond the physical world is a deep impulse in human beings. When we believe in an afterlife, that’s the metaphysical impulse at work. But of course no one can know why everything happens, so to say “Everything happens for a reason” would appear to be factually invalid. Some things might happen for a reason while other things are random.

If you take that viewpoint, your logic is impeccable. A kitten taken away early from its mother will stalk birds without being taught—its genes or instinct or natural selection drives the behavior. But whether the bird is caught or gets away is random. Likewise, in humans the lower brain is the source of atavistic drives for sex and the fight-or-flight response, but each person will act out those impulses differently. 

Logical reasoning should settle the matter, but in reality it doesn’t even come close. The metaphysical impulse is too strong. We want to know, for example, why human existence contains higher experiences of love, beauty, truth, creativity, insight, wonder, ecstasy, and religious epiphany—none of these experiences can be logically explained. Even where pure logic does apply, as in mathematics, no one can explain why mathematical laws exist, why they are perfectly meshed, and what their origin is.

In short, each of us, whether we know it or not, is trapped in a metaphysical mystery. The mystery reaches all the way to the creation of the universe. Physical creation takes place in a framework of time, space, matter, and energy. But where did they come from? There has to be a pre-created state that gave rise to the big bang, yet we cannot cross the horizon that separates us from this pre-created state. The same mystery is personal as well. Everyone has thoughts, but we don’t know where thoughts come from; we cannot predict our next thought; and at bottom, we don’t know what a thought is. Thinking about thoughts is like a snake biting its tail, a kind of circular process that reaches no conclusion.

Driven by the metaphysical impulse, humans have journeyed into places where logic, science, mathematics, and even everyday cause-and-effect don’t apply. All of those tools are crucial for exploring the model of reality we call the physical world. Beyond the physical world, other tools are needed. By comparison, they are very vague, since we don’t look upon insight, imagination, intuition, reflection, meditation, contemplation, and epiphany as tools.

But they are, and everyone uses them all the time. When you decide what to have for dinner, you are seeking an intuitive answer. Asking a computer what you will eat for dinner is the wrong way to go about it. Anytime we say, “What strikes your fancy?” we are asking a metaphysical question in a modest way. The big metaphysical questions involve the same tools of intuition, insight, imagination, etc., but go much deeper.

Without a doubt everyone’s life is balanced on the edge of the physical and the metaphysical. This uniquely human position allows us to use randomness rather than being ruled by it. A close-up video of an artist’s palette would reveal random daubs of color being picked up by the painter’s brush, but pull back, and you see that a creative process is at work. The random daubs are in the service of painting a portrait, landscape, or anything the painter can imagine.

Creativity is the triumph of purpose over chaos and randomness. Imagination is an escape route beyond physical limitations. Spiritual experiences take us beyond pain and suffering. Curiosity and discovery allow us to evolve beyond the strict scheme of Darwinism. All of these things exist as a result of living on the cusp between the physical and the metaphysical.

Yet the metaphysical impulse doesn’t stop there. The painter’s palette proves that creativity can overcome randomness, using it for a higher purpose. What if the same holds true everywhere? The chemical reactions inside a cell, including brain cells, must obey randomness. Chemicals automatically react when they come into contact with other chemicals. Molecules don’t get to choose. Yet cells are exquisitely organized into orderly processes that fire with specific purposes amid the swirling chemical soup we observe inside a cell.

Instead of contemplating the intricacies of biology that mysteriously lead to an organ as organized as the human brain, we can cut to the chase. What is creativity is the very essence of everything that happens in, around, and through us? Here is the real motivation for saying “Everything happens for a reason.” Knowing that human life, despite its limitations and struggles, has a meaning, we intuit that a higher meaning is plausible. People can lose faith in God or the gods, undergo horrific catastrophes, bear witness to loss of lives in war or natural disasters, and all the rest.

But somewhere, somehow, existence is meaningful. The one thing that humans can’t abide, in fact, is the prospect of a completely meaningless life—nothing feels more tragic. The beauty of the metaphysical impulse is revealed only if you carry it to its source. At the depth of human awareness, the great saints, sages, avatars, artists, and luminaries in every field (choose any term you wish) discovered that we do not, in fact, live on the cusp between the physical and the metaphysical.

Instead, to be fully human means living entirely in the metaphysical. That’s the meaning of Nirvana, enlightenment, being in the world but not of it, seeing beyond the illusions of Maya—again, choose any term you wish. Stripped of terminology, the revelation comes down to one thing: existence is conscious. Consciousness creates and governs everything, not like a watchmaker putting the intricate workings of a timepiece together but by consciousness transforming itself into all of creation. We inhabit a metaphysical universe, and the glory of being human is that everyone can say, “I am the universe.” 

DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, FRCP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.  Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 91st book, Total Meditation: Practices in Living the Awakened Life  explores and reinterprets the physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual benefits that the practice of meditation can bring.  For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution. His latest book,  Living in the Light co-authored with Sarah Platt-Finger. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”

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