Does everything happen for a reason?
I want to examine this question in the context of current events. How can we make informed choices, for future well-being and fulfillment? My focus is on #WomenRising, as always in these pages. But the logic and perspectives apply equally to female and male, and to all ages from grade school to late-career.
Recent events have created a great deal of uncertainty in our lives, for both current and future life/career choices. Regardless of our political views, major US policy changes are forcing hard choices on us – in every station of life, and for each of our family members.
If everything happens for a reason, then why have these events occurred? And how must we guide our actions accordingly?
But with those questions posed, the apparently simple premise – that causes dictate actions – could mean very different things for different people. At least in my view, the issue of how one reacts to such big events – those that change lives and cultures – is not clearly driven by the events in themselves. Rather, each of us must first decide what impetus the events impart to our lives, and how best to follow the newly defined path.
I prefer a different formulation of the principles that drive such pivotal events, and the guiding force they represent for our decisions. As an experimental scientist (one who has strong ethical and moral beliefs), I am convinced that many big events are due to multiple factors that combine in sometimes unexpected, even random ways. This combination of coincidence and causation can produce events that seemed highly unlikely, but have profound implications once they occur. And some of those consequences are very clearly, as the traditional saying goes, ‘dark clouds’ in the lives of many.
To my way of thinking, these dark clouds were only inevitable in the sense that a rogue killer wave was inevitable. At the right time and in the right place, multiple variables produced a highly unlikely event. Statistically, such events are often called ‘fat tail’ or ‘black swan’ events – because they fall on the normally very thin tails of a distribution, many standard deviations from the mean.
In any case, the traditional saying about such dark clouds would imply that a ‘silver lining’ also exists. The key is to patiently look for it, and take full advantage. And this is the core point of my formulation, which I will summarize as follows. Bad things happen, and quite often they happen to good people. But good people can apply their intelligence, and look carefully for the silver lining. Find the opportunity, or new perspective, that reveals a new and previously unconsidered way forward. And it is this New Way Forward that I urge all to consider, in these days of formidable Dark Clouds.
To illustrate these principles, I return to an example from previous posts on these pages. Consider an intelligent and capable woman, who has been told her entire life that she is not capable of success – in a technically or intellectually challenging career. This woman knows full well that the doubters and abusers are wrong. She fully intends to move forward, to maximize her own potentials.
But now this woman looks at the world – the US in particular – and sees new and formidable obstacles, put in place by a brutal political regime. And the attitudes and behavior, of those around her, reflect the dismissive and abusive attitudes of this new reality. As she sees all too well, a large number of constituents are vocal supporters of the upheaval in progress.
I would argue that these circumstances have most assuredly created a dark cloud for such women. Did they happen for a reason? In my view, they happened for many reasons – but only in the sense that a rogue killer wave happens for many reasons.
Her job is not so much to understand and be guided by the reasons. If she did, she might well conclude that she should submit to repression and degradation, and abandon her dreams. This idea is flatly wrong, in my judgment. Rather, her task is to find the silver lining – the new path that allows her to fulfill her own mission, and to maximize her potentials as she chooses. And in the remainder of this article, I suggest initial steps to consider, in a reasoned quest to find that new path.
Maybe the new path has the same endpoint as the original that she pursued – the same objective, the same challenging and rewarding life and career. But a great deal of caution, and very careful planning are now in order. She must take into account the new dark cloud of societal mores, and take a slightly different approach to the original objective. There are many avenues by which this might be done. It could be as simple as carefully choosing the ‘helpers’, the visionaries who will work with and for her to achieve her goals. Social media and progressive organizations and individuals provide many such opportunities. She can do careful research, and due diligence before making big decisions about how to achieve her goals.
Or maybe the new path is one not taken before, but one that is now more significant and worthy – because it is forcefully denied by the new, repressive regime and societal mores. A case in point is the flagrant denial of climate change, and the enormous consequences it is bringing to our world. The reality of the climate crisis does not change. Denial simply heightens the global emergency, and creates an even greater urgency for solutions that are both sustainable and profitable. Renewable energy, biomimicry, and ‘green’ engineering and chemistry are powerful, viable paths to follow. All are accessible by social media and networking. In my judgment, all will see massive growth as the emergency becomes ever more dire. Under the current US policy of denial and obstruction, that massive potential for growth is the silver lining.
Timing, careful analysis and due diligence are core requirements for all who navigate these paths. But giving up your goals, because others are abusive or obstructive, is wrong – for the same reasons as giving in to fear, and remaining silent are wrong. History is on the side of #WomenRising, and that has not changed. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must abandon your ambitions, because ‘Everything Happens for a Reason’. Find your own silver lining, your own path, and follow it.
Written and submitted by Dr. McCasland