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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

JOURNAL: Everything Happens

Does everything happen for a reason? It’s a question we as humans have been asking ourselves since the time of the ancient Greeks.

Philosophers, religious leaders and everyday people for centuries have been trying to figure out if the universe is divinely planned out or if we’ve all just been thrown into it with no direction. 

Aristotle philosophized that things happen because of four different causes explained via a metaphor about building a house. First is the material cause which represents what a house is made of. Second is the formal cause, or the blueprint. Third is the efficient cause which is the actual manual labor put into building a house. Last is the purpose or goal. Why am I building this house in the first place? What will I get out of it? 

I believe that the final cause is most important when it comes to the belief everything happens for a reason. Believing everything happens for a reason also infers that there is some kind of overall purpose or goal to life and moreover that a singular overall goal can be achieved in a life that will likely span almost a century. 

But, saying that everything happens for a reason can sometimes not feel like enough in the face of senseless harm caused by people or things outside of our control. How can a natural disaster or senseless violence be explained away by a simple phrase? 

The famous enlightenment philosopher Voltaire was staunchly against the claim that everything happens for a reason. He believed that there was too much evil in the world to support the idea.

In his short novel, “Candide“, he made fun of the idea by depicting a supporter witnessing an earthquake and repeating the sentiment that everything happens for a reason. Voltaire equates the idea with naivety and ignorance about the world and the people in it and refuses the claim that some evil and injustice cannot be avoided. Explaining away these events is rarely helpful or conducive to a better world.

As humans, it’s inevitable that we will fail and lose a thousand times over, but rationalizing it isn’t always the comfort we need. I can’t tell you the countless number of times I wanted to scream into the void “This isn’t fair. Why me?” but that’s just it: sometimes it isn’t fair, and it is random.

In all honesty, I struggle picking a side in this debate. I’ve experienced things that somehow feel divinely planned and been through tragedy that did have a light at the end of a tunnel as a direct result. However, I’ve also experienced the senseless pain of losing a loved one or missing out on an opportunity I really wanted. This explanation can be frustrating, especially in the face of tragedy. Do we have to define everything with a single phrase? I believe it can be more complex than that a lot of times.

In the end, I resonate with the idea that everything happens for a reason as well as the idea that life is full of random experiences. 

The main thing that I keep coming back to is that sense of comfort. Sometimes it feels good to believe everything happens for a reason, but it can also be equally comforting to believe that sometimes things just happen. So, what I say to you is to find what helps you go on and accept that it will inevitably change like everything else in this random, yet at the same time planned out, universe. 

This story was written by Kirsten Lyons. She can be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Kirsten Lyons, Assistant Opinions Editor
Kirsten Lyons is a sophomore from St. Paul, Minnesota studying journalism and peace studies and is the Assistant Opinions Editor at the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire she enjoys knitting, reading and trying out new recipes. She is excited to grow as a journalist at the Wire and help others do the same.

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