Exploring Destiny (part 3): There are no accidents…or are there?
The first time I heard the phrase “there are no accidents” was during an EST Seminar (now the Landmark “Forum”) in the early 1980s. I was in my early twenties. The principle thought behind this phrase, as promoted by EST Trainers, was to inspire a greater level of personal responsibility in each of us and to have us ultimately grasp that we are the creators of our own reality whether we like or not and, further, that we have the power to change it. This notion resonated with me and seemed to fit nicely with the macrobiotic view of the world of “oneness” that I was brought up on. I emphasize the word “seemed” because things are not always what they appear to be.
Some people I grew up with thought that, for example, if one accidentally banged a knee or bruised a finger that it was the exact spot that needed attention like an acupressure massage, and hence, such occurrences were not “accidental.” This idea of “no accidents” could be further expanded to include unintentional meetings with people that seem to be more than just by chance. However, when one applies the phrase to things such as car accidents and other tragic events that lead to death then the simplicity of this notion starts to unravel and become uncertain and complex.
Today, the phrase seems to have gained a resurgence in popularity due to the new spin on older teachings like “The Secret” and the “Laws Of Attraction”. It also seems to resonate strongly among the religious; those who believe in the or a divine force and which is behind everything; hence there are no accidents since God, as Einstein put, “does not play dice”.
But over the years I began to question this readily accepted catch phrase or explanation of events. On the one hand it is apparent that there are accidents, or unintentional occurrences everyday and to say that they really are intentional is to add an element of responsibility upon those involved in accidental events which is not only untrue but is extremely inappropriate. This inappropriateness is magnified in cases of genocide or other horrific crimes that involve the killing, raping and destroying the lives of innocents where the victims of these events certainly had no intention of wanting such things to occur upon themselves.
Now, it could be said from a religious perspective that while those involved may not have had any intention in being in an accidental occurrence that it was instead the will or intention of the divine of which we may or may never know the cause or reason, other than the fact that it ultimately was not an accident. However, I am personally not satisfied with this because to me such an explanation is basically an admission of ignorance. As a side note, I also find it hypocritical when people “thank God” after surviving some calamity yet then curse or question God when a loved one passes away for no clear or apparent reason. If we really believe in God and a divine intention then would we not be consistently appreciative towards all life experiences regardless of whether they were beneficial or tragic? Below is a thoughtful talk by Rev.Tom Honey, Canon Pastor of Exeter Cathedral in the UK on God and the tragic South Asian tsunami of 2004 that further illustrates this dilemma.
Let’s explore this, instead, from a logical perspective: If I personally have free will then you must also as well as everyone else on the planet. We all have free will. Given the numbers of people on the planet and that each of us have our own free will then it stands to reason that sometimes someone’s free will (intention, ambition, desire) will collide with someone else’s free will – unintentionally. This is an accident; an unintentional occurrence that is the result of each and everyone of us exercising our free will.
Now, suppose none of us have free will. Suppose that we are merely puppets of some larger divine and sometime inexplicable will. Then everything we do, whether we intend to or not, is controlled by this larger divine will. Nothing is an accident but is an expression of this divine will. If we except this then nothing we do will make a difference since it is all predetermined. Whatever notion of “free will” that we have has absolutely no meaning since all is predetermined. Why then bother to make any decisions at all? Why then, do we bother to dream and make plans and attempt to realize those dreams and plans? (In the below video Philosopher Scientist, Dan Bennet, discusses the issue of “intelligent” design).
Yet, intuitively and from direct life experience, we know that we do have a free will that we exercise. We are constantly faced with decisions and choices everyday of our lives. Each moment we choose to take one path instead of another. By accepting the fact that we do have and do exercise individual and personal free will then we must accept that accidents will occur as the result of the unintended intersection of each of us exercising our free will. In other words, if we accept that we have free will then we must also accept the existence of accidents. In short, accidents are the result of free will and one does not exist without the other!
But if we assume that we don’t have “free will” or that our individual will is of no consequence because we are following the will of some higher power then it follows that there are no accidents. Whatever we then decide and do or not do does not matter. Hence, a world with no accidents excludes our having free will. In this way, the original intention of inspiring greater personal responsibility by promoting the notion of “there are no accidents” eventually invokes the reverse because a life without accidents is a life without freedom and a life without freedom is a life without responsibility.
But this is not the end of the discussion on accidents, free will and divine intention. There is more. For someone like Einstein to say that “God does not play dice” is significant and needs to be explored…
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