Everything happens for a reason
Nope. Not everything happens for a reason. That raindrop did not fall to the left of the rose petal for a reason. The raindrop just fell.
That dog did not pee on your berry bush for a reason. Silky just peed, because she’s a dog.
Some things happen for a reason. But of all the sayings that are supposed to inspire you to think, “Oh, there’s a much bigger picture here!” this one is just lame. “God works in mysterious ways,” is similar, but not quite.
Part of the trouble is the word reason. Reason can mean every action prompts a reaction, which is Newton’s idea. Reason can also mean applying logic. Reason can mean metaphysical magic beyond our reckoning is at work in your life. If we don’t understand it, the reason must be beyond reason.
Miraculously, you will see that the neighbors dog pee in your yard and you’ll recognize that it must be a sign that you are to be less critical, or not look down at others, or plant trees somewhere else, or any infinite number of interpretations.
Let’s face it, though, folks. The main reason that the dog peed is that dogs pee.
We want to make everything in the Universe about us. Everything happens for a reason, seems to assure us that we are important enough for forces greater than ourselves to be looking out for even the tiniest event. Also, we want to know, or be able to interpret why things, especially bad things, happen.
They happen because life happens. How you respond to a crisis is up to you. Don’t give up any scintilla of power you have to a greater reason. Unless, that reason, is one that you know you are helping to shape and co-create along with all the forces in the Universe that also shape your fate.
What other people think of you is none of your business
This one is meant to tell you that you should be brave. Take risks. The idea behind this phrase is a sound idea, but people can’t figure it out very often. They abuse, and sometimes limit, its power.
Of course, Jesus , Joan of Arc, Gandhi and Greta Thunberg cared/care about what people think about them. Most heroes are reviled before they are honored. They care, but they act anyway. Being courageous and doing the right thing is really, really hard. But they did it.
This phrase is misused by people who think it means that you are free to do whatever you want and not be deterred by the judgment of others. Let’s say you park in a spot reserved for someone else. Your “cause” is correct, you know the person who is ‘entitled’ to this spot is just a jerk. She is not really entitled, in your eyes, to this spot any more than one else.
But, really, you just affected everyone else who will be impacted by your misguided behavior. We are called not to judge others, and this phrase turns that thought on its head.
Do care about what others think because we all have to live harmoniously as possible in a shared world. Do take risks, but please, think about all the ramifications. If your cause is truly greater than any resulting turmoil or harm, than go forward blessed with courage.
A more straightforward thought would be: Don’t be deterred to do what you know is right, but don’t be selfish about it, either.
All life is suffering
The is the first of the four noble truths as taught by Buddha. However, there is an issue, first of all, in that he never said it.
The ancient word referring to “suffering “ from the Sanskrit, is Duhkha, also spelled Dukkha, (and there may be more variations as well). “Life is Duhkha.” However this word does not translate at all well into English, or any other language, so its meaning is very distorted.
All life is Duhkha. All life has dissatisfaction because of our constant wanting of something other than the ever so predictable and unavoidable Duhkha.
“All life is suffering” certainly doesn’t sound inspiring does it? The teaching meant that suffering is part of life. It is talking about dissatisfaction, and yes, it also refers to the many kinds of suffering people impose upon themselves and what they experience from external circumstances.
It confuses people, rather than inspiring, because it is not about the simple fact that all life also includes joy, love, elation, and beauty. Of course these counterweights to suffering are equally important in enlightenment, but this phrase is not concerned with them.
When thinking that all life is Duhkha, we can imagine that thoughts of dissatisfaction will rise and fall away from our mindfulness (or lack there of). If we are mindful of our attachment to constant need for something other than what we have, we don’t always have to lose out because of our obsessive attachment. The intent of this phrase has no flaws at all.
Yet, some people say “All life is suffering” when their favorite shampoo is all gone. And, some people say it when something tragic happens. I think people often use it in jest. And the phrase is just, what can I say: Dissatisfying, for this and many other situations.
It’s lost its original punch, and I cringe when I hear it, because it means so very much to so many people that it really doesn’t mean much at all anymore.
I could write a book on all the words we toss around everyday without thinking about what we say.
Maybe I ‘ll do that. Stay tuned to see if there is actually a guiding reason behind why some things DO happen for a reason, such as I need to sell a book.