Hi, my name is Dan. Thanks for checking out my blog. I am a thoughtful person and I have a lot to say sometimes that is not fit for ordinary conversation or small talk. I think this blog will be a great outlet. I will be sharing my reflections on philosophy, politics, fiction, tv shows, movies, etc.
Here is my first essay. It occurred to me after discussing one of Ral
Is it Meant to Be, or Just an Accident?
We go through life, trying to get a job, meeting some new, falling in love, quitting a job, experiencing the death of a loved one. These are all common and inevitable experiences for many people. These experiences are part of life, which we did not invent and cannot change. We simply have to accept the parameters of life, if we are to go one living. One thing, though, it seems we do have control over is how we understand the parameters, and shifting circumstances, of our lives. I am going to propose two possible ways to understand life’s shifting circumstances.
The first way I will describe is the naturalistic way. Let’s say you’re out for a walk. A neighbor’s dog comes tearing out of the front door and circles around you, sniffing and jumping on you. A stranger emerges from your neighbor’s home, calling out to the dog in frustration.
“I’m so sorry, bad dog, Jackie!”
You accept the apology, and begin talking to the stranger, who happens to be a relative of your neighbor coming for a visit from a nearby town. You smile at the stranger, and make some small talk about the weather.
It turns out the neighbor’s relative is a recovering drug addict. When he returned to the home and began to talking to your neighbor, your neighbor told him about you—your success in business, your thriving family, how you overcame post-traumatic stress disorder. Two years later, the former addict approaches you and told you that he drew strength from hearing about you and watching your regular habits as you took care of the lawn on the weekends and pulled into the driveway after a long day of hard, honorable work. Maybe the addict would never have recovered if he had not run into you in an effort to restrain his dog.
This is a purely hypothetical situation. It is a single situation, but one can interpret it differently. The naturalistic viewpoint is unidimensional and restricted to the human plane. In other words, what is at work here is nothing more than human decisions, reactions, and emotions. You made the decision to take a walk. The dog bolted out of the home. Your neighbor’s relative, following a sense of politeness, rushed out to restrain the dog. The two of you started to communicate. The relative of the neighbor learned more about you, and information about strengthened your neighbor’s resolve to overcome his drug addiction. That is all there is to the story.
There is a viewpoint, though, that acknowledges all the same factors in the naturalistic viewpoint, but sees them against a larger backdrop. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a great American essayist of the nineteenth century, is a representative of this viewpoint. I will call this viewpoint the ‘mysterious orderliness’ viewpoint. Yes, it is true that you made the decision to leave your home and take a walk in your neighborhood. But, why was the departure from your home timed in such a way that your neighbor’s dog rushed out at you when you walked past the home? The naturalist would say the timing was just a coincidence. You could have left the home while the dog was sleeping in a back room of the neighbor’s house, or playing ball with one of the kids. But, you left when the dog was looking out the half-open front door, and that is why he charged out at you—because that is what dogs do.
The mysterious orderliness theorist, though, sees a deeper force at work that led the two crucial events here—you taking a walk and the dog waiting at the half-open front door. Emerson would say that the two crucial events were intended, not coincidental. The opposite of coincidental is intentional. An intentional event was planned, whereas a coincidental event just occurs haphazardly. Emerson writes, in his essay, Self-Reliance, “The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.” In other words, the fact that your eye catches on particular ray of light is part of a plan—it is very important that your eye catches that particular, and not another, ray of light. So, there is a deeper engineering, for the mysterious orderliness theorist, than mere human psychology. The fact that you left your house when the dog was keeping watch at the half-open front door is part of a plan, not a coincidence. Emerson writes, “Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none.” There is a reason why the dog charged out at you just when the neighbor’s relative happened to be there watching it.
How do you view the people and circumstances in your life? As a naturalist—are they just the products of human psychology, people trying to be happy and cooperating or coming into conflict? Or, are the people and circumstances that make up your life there because of a deeper plan? In a way, were you meant to run into the man at the grocery store and talk about the price of ground beef, or to fail to get the job you so desperately wanted? Are the circumstances that are out of our control in the control of someone or something else?