Platitude n. - A trite or banal remark or statement, especially one expressed as if it were original or significant. See also "cliche".
Janie and I tape two soap operas during the day and play them back at night, fast-forwarding through the commercials. Though "Young and the Restless" and "Bold and the Beautiful" are each edited to appeal to opposing political viewpoints, both have a tendency to work in the glib phrase "Everything happens for a reason."
We used to groan more or less in unison, but have decided it's just a soap opera. Our mutual distaste for the phrase is old news, and there's no point in running our little soapbox speeches by one another for the 93rd time.
Nick (Ridge's half brother) rationalizes Brook's infidelity - with him - while she and Ridge (Nick's half-brother) were separated.
Meanwhile Ridge is trying to convince Brooke he wasn't entirely responsible for leaving her and the kids. Ridge, having discovered his half-sister (and wife's daughter by Ridge's "father" who turned out not to be Ridge's father after all and so she's not really his half sister, well) Ridge has been giving his sister/stedaughter(not) some long overdue lessons in smooching.
Michael's new bride Lauren is blown up in a freak honeymoon accident, and a friend is sitting down to console him.*
In the longer version of all three scenes the Dreaded Platitude is spoken.
What do we mean when we say this "Everything Happens for a Reason"?
Is it comforting? Does it shift responsibility? Does it bring a sense of idealized order to an otherwise real life situation? Is it easier to say "there is a reason" and look no further into what exactly the uncomfortable realities might be?
Here in reality there are always multitudes of "reasons" or "causes" or "suspect coincidences", rather than a simple A-plus-B-resulted-in-C explanation. The driver wasn't paying attention; the ball rolled into the street; the older brother wasn't watching; cars are inherently dangerous.
If you still crave simplicity, I like what the mother of my friend Rita told her: "Car Trumps Person." This is vivid, easy to remember, easy to repeat, and thanks - in part - to this sage advice, Rita is alive today. "Car Trumps Person" fits easily into the smallest mind.
I also like the straightforward wisdom of "Shit Happens."
I like these wee truths because they have a clarity that "Sometimes bad things happen to good people" does not. A child - or this adult - might rightly wonder "What does being good have to do with getting hit by a car?" And this leads me to something more close to home.
Long before I met my wife Janie, she had a bad car accident that requires her to use a wheelchair. She can walk, but the wheelchair is a great help. She was 16. She will be 40 in July. We've been married 8 great years.
Depending on how her day is going this disability is an annoyance, an infuriation, and in subtle ways on good days a "good thing." For example, we never would have met had she not had this accident. I make her laugh, and we have the occasional cathartic fight. Also, children wouldn't walk up to check out her "cool" power wheelchair. That is something she will never, ever tire of.
On balance, the disability sucks, but life has so much more to offer than the ability to walk. On balance, life is good.
Her disability is what it is. It happened. It was icy. She didn't have much driving experience. The one and only time she forgot to wear her seat belt, she had an accident. To her, the phrase "everything happens for a reason" strongly implies there was some blessing or lesson or punishment afoot.
And please don't tell her "this was part of God's plan for you". To us, that's just ignorant.
So, I'll repeat, in our combined lives we love/hate this disability for the reality it is.
We don't need a consolation prize.
Reward and punishment might work for a rat in a maze, but we have lives to live and we get by fine without vague theories about why things happen.
* In the soap opera example above, I prefer Michael's take on the Lauren's death. Waiting for people to arrive at her memorial he - an attorney - turns to face the altar and says, "I OBJECT!"