Recently, I ran into a bit of bad luck. I won't bother you with the details—they're not terribly interesting. What matters is, I was sitting at the bar with a friend—miserable and hunched over a dirty Stoli martini while he delivered a series of irritating, consolation clichés.
He was saying stuff like, “Well, you still have your health” and “Things could be worse” and, of course, the worst consolation cliché of them all. It's only five words long, but these five words are so repugnant, they can drive a man to stab your neck with an olive spear should you speak them.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he said, then lifted his martini and gazed upward, as if what he said was blisteringly profound.
“Dude!” I snapped. “You did not just say, ‘Everything happens for a reason' to me.”
“Well, it does,” he insisted.
“You're a dipshit,” I told him as I stabbed his neck with an olive spear.
Even if it's true that everything happens for a reason (a point I do not concede), how can you be sure that the “reason” will be a positive one? How can you be sure that, say, the reason I lost my legs in a car crash (hypothetical) was because I'm supposed to become a world-renowned activist for legless people and make billions of dollars jet-setting around the world speaking to arena-sized audiences with my harem of gorgeous, horny cripple-groupies by my side.It never occurs to people that maybe the “reason” I wrecked my car and lost my legs was because God hates me and wants me to suffer.
Or maybe everything does happen for a positive reason—only, not positive for me. For instance, what if the reason for my car wreck is because there are too many cars on the planet. Well, sure, the planet might be better off, but I didn't invite you out for a martini to make the planet feel better, dipshit!
Incidentally, the world's leading authority on the Everything Happens for a Reason Theory is Mira Kirshenbaum, a renowned therapist, clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute and the author of nine award-winning books. She is also a raging dipshit.
In her book, Everything Happens for a Reason, Kirshenbaum affirms it as fact: “Amazing as it sounds, it is true,” she writes, to which I respond, Really, Mira? Everything? And you know this because you have scientifically scrutinized everything that ever happened in the universe? Everything—from Plato's gardener stubbing his toe on a rock to Ted Kennedy's brain tumor—has been determined, by you, to have been for some greater purpose?
“[E]ven in the worst disaster there are wonderful gifts, hidden opportunities, or life-enhancing lessons. And we couldn't have gotten them any other way.”
Grrr. This is a classic case of a flawed causal argument, more specifically known as, post hoc ergo propter hoc (from the Latin, meaning, “After this, therefore because of this”), which is like saying I crashed my car after hearing a Beatles song on the radio, therefore, the Beatles made me crash.
Yes, duh, Mira, of course there are gifts, opportunities and life lessons to be found after tragedy, but that doesn't mean it was the reason the tragedy happened. And how do you know you couldn't have gotten these gifts and opportunities in “any other way”? You can't know that because you didn't go any other way. You went that way.
When I fried the ACL on my right knee many years ago, I was unable to bartend for several months. So, I made a conscious decision to focus on more writing. It was something I'd wanted to do anyway, but full-time bartending made it difficult. Now that I was sidelined, I had more time to write, and I started selling articles to magazines across the country. By the time the knee healed completely, I was making a living as a full-time journalist.
Now, if I were one of these “everything happens for a reason” dipshits, I would say, “See, I became a professional writer because of my knee injury” (Post hoc ergo propter hoc). But I realize that any inclination that I might have to give “reason” to my injury is more likely due to an inherent human desire to believe that the things that happen to us have greater meaning because we are all, at core, stupid and narcissistic creatures.
And, oh boy, if everybody wasn't everything-happens-for-a-reason-ing me back then, too. I could never understand how people could say that. They made it sound like this bad thing that happened to me was actually alive, a sentient being, and it was thinking, Hey, Decker needs to write more so I will pulverize his knee to send him a message.
But, really, couldn't The Bad Thing that Happened to Me be a little less violent and intrusive? If The Bad Thing that Happened to Me wanted to send a message about how to improve my life, couldn't it just put a brand-new computer on my doorstep with a note that said, “Write more, dipshit!”?
So, spare me the clichés. Seriously, the next time you run into someone who is facing hard times, don't tell him everything happens for a reason. Tell him, “Man, I know there is nothing on this godawful planet I can say to make you feel better except these five words of consolation: “Barkeep, the drinks are on me.”
Now those are five words I can really wrap my fist around.Send hate mail to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Whatever you do, don't visit www.edwindecker.com. Would you like your online comment to be considered for publication in our print edition? Include your true full name and neighborhood of residence.