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Meant to Be

April 1, 2008

Of all the popular religio-spiritual sentiments, I dislike “meant to be” the most. It’s such an easy way of dismissing personal agency, only it comes with a hidden subtext of either victim-blaming or the arbitrariness and cruelty of God. Just because everything works out in the end (which is often does, if only because we are pretty good at coping and adapting) doesn’t mean some benevolent/maleficent being has fated it to be so. Because that’s what meant-to-be is, a lighter way of saying “and so it was destined.” I don’t believe in destiny or fate, and I don’t believe in meant-to-be.

A while ago, my partner and I attempted to get pregnant through the use of artificial insemination. A friend was our sperm donor. We did end up miscarrying, and the friend turned out to be not a friend, and so it is probably for the best that we aren’t tied to him for the rest of our lives through a genetically shared child. Both after the miscarriage and after the friend drama, people tried to reassure us with “It was meant to be.” I think this was intended to imply “This bad thing happened through no fault of your own and when fate intends you to have a child you will,” but how it felt was “Because this was fated, all the hard work you went through to get to this was pointless and can be dismissed. I am also dismissive of all the pain you are going through right now. God (or something) must want you to go through this awful horrible thing either because you deserved it or because He is an arbitrary jackass.”

Do you see why I dislike the sentiment?

I also know that if we had carried to term, people would have told us that the problems with the donor were meant to be. Maybe a lesson we were supposed to learn about conflict and compromise. Maybe a lesson he was supposed to learn about being an adult. If the kid had been born disabled, it would have been meant-to-be. If the friendship hadn’t gone down the tubes it would have been meant-to-be. Anything can be described in these terms, it’s just like the whole “God works in mysterious ways” bullshit. Oh does He? Maybe He doesn’t work at all.

Surely the most parsimonious solution is just that sometimes life is great and sometimes life is shit, and we mere mortals are pretty damn good at moving on. I would much rather prefer to think about my life events as partially based on my actions, partially based on others’, and partially based on circumstances/situations/randomness, than fated and completely out of my control.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Meeco permalink
    April 3, 2008 12:03 pm

    this is good. i share many of your sentiments.

  2. jeffmilner permalink
    April 18, 2008 12:37 pm

    Thought provoking—you’ve got me thinking.

    I’m trying to come up with a better version of “It’s meant to be” for implying that there is some lesson to be learned from this bad thing and maybe there is nothing that can be done about it and I’d like you to feel better but doesn’t have that “Because this was fated” attitude associated with it.

    So far, nothing.

    Most of the time, I stick with c’est la vie (which sort of leaves me wanting).

    Any thoughts?

  3. April 18, 2008 5:16 pm

    Hmm… that’s a good one. I don’t have an answer for that. I can usually tell myself that I’ll appreciate the experience (or aspects of the experience) in hindsight, and time and time I have done just that. That’s the best I’ve got, but you have me thinking now.

  4. April 20, 2008 12:41 pm

    I’ve been enjoying your blog and many that you link to. This thought in particular, you phrased more clearly than I have been able to.

    If I was an omnipotent, omniscient being, I probably wouldn’t be working either.

    Cheers,
    Tim

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