Cause, effect, success, and the mystery of it all

It plays an indelible role in today’s personal growth movement: the law of attraction. Haven’t we all heard about it in some form or another by now?

“Your success in your hands.”

“Your life is what you make it.”

“What you think and believe, you will achieve.”

“What you resist, persists.”

(Some of them can get pretty catchy when you throw in a little rhyme.)

The pressure mounts.

That, and an ever growing sense that if we are not successful, we only have ourselves to blame. If we haven’t reached our dream and achieved our goals, we just haven’t been doing it right. Failure then means that somehow we didn’t think hard enough or clear enough, or we didn’t do enough or believe enough.

It’s all on us. We are to blame.

In the other camp?

We’re victims of fate, birth, place, God …

“Oh well. That’s life.”

“Life’s just hard and we are its pawns.”

“We don’t get what we want, so get over it and get on with it.”

That’s the thinking I was raised with and I still hear it from time to time.

I cringe.

You don’t see this victim way of thinking in popular personal growth literature, for good reason. It can get rather hopeless.

As long as we look outside ourselves for every reason and explanation for what has gone right or wrong in our lives, it’s impossible to believe that we have any free agency or autonomy. And that, in itself, holds a twisted sort of freedom.

It’s all because of ‘them’, ‘that’ or ‘Him’. We should just accept our fate.

It seems we like to find the root, the cause … or the blame.

It’s that part of us that thinks in story and builds plots around our experiences. In our story thinking, we seek a beginning, middle and end.

It helps us to explain everything, from why we have that quirky cleft in our chin to why that guy became a serial killer.

“In the beginning” — one of Western civilization’s all-time bestseller books starts with those words. “Once upon a time” is a pretty popular phrase too. As I wrote about earlier this week, the end can often be found in the beginning. It’s the cause.

Or is it? Perhaps it’s in the middle. In theory, the beginning is clean and well defined — beyond our control. It’s not until after the beginning that we do anything, and that’s when we run with the promise offered to us in the beginning. It can get pretty messy, with all of our mistakes, failures, and misjudgments.

Personally, I’d like to believe it’s in my hands. The whole victim thing simply doesn’t appeal to me — the hopelessness and helplessness of it all. But at the same time, I know that my life’s beginnings influenced my messy middle.

There is a chain of causation and it hasn’t all been in my control. We inherit things, and we learn things that stick with us despite our best efforts to shake them off.

My son’s father died eight years ago, but my son still mimics his pensive stare, his habit of losing keys, and his generous and caring spirit.

I’ve long since walked away from the organized religion of my youth, but the guilt! Twenty-five years later, I still can’t quite extricate myself from something so deeply ingrained.

And then there’s those massively life-changing events that can come out of nowhere and bring us to our knees. Sudden death and disease, natural disaster, violence and terror … we can’t possibly be prepared, no matter how vigilant we try to be.

So, which is it? The law of attraction or the law of {insert the name of your chosen authority or power figure here}?

Yesterday, I read something that Einstein said once in conversation. He didn’t really know for sure either:

“Nature is neither solely material nor entirely spiritual. Man, too, is more than flesh and blood; otherwise, no religions would have been possible. Behind each cause is still another cause; the end or beginning of all causes has yet to be found. Yet only one thing must be remembered: there is no effect without a cause, and there is no lawlessness in creation.”

As a scientist, he was driven to comprehend the laws which he was certain had to exist. For every effect there is a cause — of that he was certain. But, based on interviews I’ve read, he would say he never nailed it down, the ultimate cause of all, and he considered it to be an ongoing pursuit for us all:

“It isn’t important whether people understand this or that philosophical system. What they should understand is that they are endowed with a mind that has the power to unveil the mystery of life. This knowledge should make every man an individual thinker.”

The mystery of life — what a beautiful way of referring to what we don’t fully comprehend and what, quite possibly, may elude us forever.

And that’s where this ends for today … with an arbitrary ending that offers little in the way of closure, along with an appreciation of the mystery.

Writer, teacher, photographer & perpetual thinker. Here to share what I find while wandering around in the messy middle of life.

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