Thoughts on Fate: Does Everything Happen for a Reason?
I don’t know if everything happens for a reason, but here I’ll entertain the idea that this is true. Ideas of fate, and a before or afterlife aside, thinking that I can learn something valuable from every experience allows me to perceive and proceed with confidence and calm.
To entertain the idea that everything happens for a reason, I review my lifetime of experiences, and see that I learned something of worth from every single one. Some lessons I had to take a few times to truly learn them, some I learned with ease, but all helped me arrive where I am today. Since I am grateful for where I’m at, I cannot look back and wish I didn’t have the experiences I had. Sure, at the time, there were challenges I would have chosen to avoid. Certainly, I’ve had experiences I would not like to have again. Yet, I know more now than I did then, so though I don’t necessarily like the idea of thinking about each experience as a lesson (as then I feel like life is work and I’m being tested constantly), I recognize that I’m always learning.
With this recognition, I explore my relationship with the term lesson, and the negative connotations I’ve associated with it. When I hear or read the word lesson, I remember myself in university, frantically studying for tests, reading texts, writing papers, and trying to learn the most I possibly could in short bursts of time. I felt constantly rushed by the pressure to meet deadlines, produce high-quality work, and perform above the professor’s expectations. Along with the anxiety that I might not be learning fast enough or performing well enough, came the feeling of not being good enough. Obviously I could have been better, as there was so much I didn’t know, and so many lessons left for me to learn.
Surely I was more ignorant a decade ago, and a decade from now I’ll look back and wonder at how little I currently know. Though I have graduated from university, and don’t currently write exams, I’m not done learning. Aside from the everyday learning that occurs in relationships and plain ol’ life, having a career presents the same pressures of learning quickly, meeting deadlines and performing well. So, other than the pride of being slightly less ignorant, what’s the point of studying away, if the test never ends?
To navigate the overwhelm of potentially never cresting the mountain I’m climbing, I explore the possibility that the testing will end at some point and I will feel accomplished. What if, later in life, I will know everything I could possibly learn? I could share my knowledge with others, but in the act of teaching, the teacher learns, so my learning would not truly be over then either. Perhaps on my deathbed I will arrive at some final conclusions (and in the meantime I will learn many valuable lessons), but until then, perhaps it is OK to go on learning new things.
Perhaps I don’t want all the lessons to be learned already. Perhaps I do not want to rush to the end of my life and know all the things and have all the experiences over and done with. Perhaps I can savor and enjoy each experience (even the difficult ones, as I know they provide the highest potential for deep learning and growth). Perhaps I can be patient with my learning process instead of berating myself for not knowing it all yet. Perhaps I can enjoy my learning process without adding on the pressure to perform. Perhaps I can feel relieved that I don’t have to know it all right now, and reassure myself that I am good enough as I am and have always been good enough. Perhaps by removing the pressure and allowing space for learning to occur, I can create space for infinite possibilities to unfold.
This train of thought feels more productive (than thinking about life as one long test), so I entertain the idea that I can choose to be excited about the unfolding of my life. I can choose to see a lifetime of learning as a glorious production that I get to be a part of: the joyful play of life. To explore my relationship with the act of learning as a playful unfolding, I ask myself, can I learn with ease? Perhaps I can view lessons as fun, and I can see learning as a privilege. Then, whether I’m in school, at work, with family or doing whatever it is I do, I can choose to perceive the experiences I have as enhancing the fullness of my life, and fueling my potential for wisdom. That way I can proceed with calm confidence and learn with ease.
This exploration of my relationship with my own life-long learning journey has been going on for years. Now, when I feel rushed, and that I should be further along than I am (when I think I should have finished some project or learned some lesson by now), I remind myself that I want to enjoy my learning process. Now, I think of learning as an enjoyable experience, and I remember myself in childhood, curiously traipsing through the woods, picking up all the rocks, and climbing all the trees. When I was young, lessons were entertaining endeavors I wanted to embark upon, and they still can be today. I can be gently curious about my life and the slow but steady lesson learning I do along the way. Being curious about my journey makes me want to learn all the possible lessons I can, and inspires me to explore with patient ease.
The unfolding of flower petals is not forced or rushed. The flower stem neither resists the petal unfolding with great anguish, nor pushes the unfolding with great anxiety for the task to be over. The flower simply blooms when it’s ready. The environment must be decent (a balance of water, sun, and the right nutrients in the soil), yet the plant explores various avenues to fulfill its goal of propagating, without resistance or urgency.
Nature explores many paths to reach a goal, and the tree is not worried if one branch dies off, it has other limbs (other avenues it is investigating). Like the plants around me, I can pursue many paths. Some paths I take will not lead me to my goals, some will, but all paths I can travel with a gentle, playful curiosity. I can allow my life to unfold at a soft pace. What’s the rush if I will never stop learning? One small lesson, one curious investigation, one fun experiment at a time, I will compile a great masterpiece of personal experience and a wealth of knowledge about how I perceive and proceed in this dance of life.
Whether or not fate exists, you can choose to entertain the idea that your life is unfolding in just the right way for you to learn valuable lessons, so go ahead and play with gentle curiosity.