I once journaled about a thought I once had on divine accidents. Specifically, I was pondering the circumstances of our births being a sort of “divine accident”. I don’t believe that this was my original idea. It was likely placed there by someone at an institution of “higher learning.”
What exactly is a “divine accident?” I’d say they’d be related to so-called “acts of God”, a term often referring to happenings we can’t otherwise explain. Without getting religious here, let’s delve into this topic of divine accidents, as this topic has been on my mind time and again.
Too often we think in terms of past, present, and future as being a simple, linear non-spatial continuum. However, history is not made up a series of events; it’s a complex web of cause and effect relationships. Unfortunately, we often come to assume certain things simply from how history is portrayed in the form of textbooks and lectures. Very few people truly investigate why or how things actually happened.
It turns out I’m one of those few who had far more questions, unimpressed by the simplified, generalized answers given to me by my education. Long ago, I started thinking about the nature of “divine accidents” occurring throughout history. For example, was the American Revolution one such “accident?” Or was this Revolution an entirely human product brought about by purely human causes, and there wasn’t anything divine about it at all?
How Do We Understand Our Own Place in History?
I’ve spent considerable time trying to rewrite my own history to make it more palatable for memory’s sake. It’s not so much for my own edification as it is for making sense of my extremely complicated past. American culture often tends toward the nostalgic, to live in the past whenever our present is uncomfortable and our future uncertain. But it’s an important need for us to look at the passage of time as a continuum, not simply as a straight timeline.
I refuse to classify my own talent of written composition as a “divine accident.” Also, I prefer not to think of myself simply as an “accident.” Still, I’ve long believed that who I am isn’t necessary to the unfolding of the universe. My purpose is vaguely defined at best and predetermined. Once free will is added to the equation, we tend to over-complicate everything because the more we think about our place in this infinite universe, it gets really overwhelming and confusing.
Yet, whether each of us is born with a predetermined fate isn’t so much important as what we choose to do with our existence. Regardless of the circumstances of our birth, we are each born with a certain potency with which to act on the universe. That’s not to say that one’s potential is less or more than one other’s potential. Its form is simply different. The magnitude, as far as our limited intellect and perception can tell, may be less or more in the context of what we perceive as being the course of history.
Every human being born into this universe has a definite effect on all others, even if that purpose is not clear to us. Nicholas of Cusa once said that everything that is possible exists in actuality. That is to say, anything is possible if we make it happen. However, it’s far too easy for people to say that the course of history is simply made up of a bunch of “divine accidents” or just that “God let it happen.” It’s not so much a matter of letting it happen, as much as we ourselves let things happen.
Why Do We Call Unfortunate Circumstances and Accidents “Acts of God?”
People often refer to natural disasters like the aftermath of devastating hurricanes as “acts of God.” Some may be “divine accidents” meant to remind us we’re subservient to a greater power, but some may not be accidents at all, meant instead to punish humanity for some unexplained reason. In reality, when tragedies occur, these happenings become called “acts of God” due to our own inability to know how to deal with them.
Oftentimes, though it’s poor response to the aftermath of these crises that turns them into tragedies. To say that God is simply punishing us for some reason is both selfish and extremely ignorant. Our desires and understandings are finite, linear things. A Divine Creator is beyond all of these individual concerns and wouldn’t send great storms and allow tragedies to happen to teach anyone a lesson. We human beings were gifted with reason in order to figure things out for ourselves; these “acts of God” are simply forces of nature that we have no power to contain or alter, at least not yet.
This isn’t to say what you want or hope for is irrelevant. But, simply desiring something, then praying for these things to come to fruition without a willful plan to actually fulfill those potentials is foolish and lazy. There are many things that appear to be out of our control, and for one person, many things are. But, for the combined will of humanity, a lot is possible, if we can overcome our selfishness and petty squabbles to actually make our world a better place to live.
Agape Love Gives Human Lives Purpose
In my experience, the issue with our society as it’s currently constituted is not based upon the Platonic concept of agape. In the original Greek New Testament of the Bible, agape is the type of love that comes from God. This love is undeserved, gracious, and sacrificial. According to the New Testament “good Christians” should all partake in spreading agape. Unfortunately, Christianity for all of its merits is often little more than ideal; most so-called Christians fall far short of really understanding what agape means.
But, agape has nothing to do with religion. That sort of love should exist between all human beings. For too many of us, our love of humanity gets lost in our attempts to “make ends meet.” It’s not to say we don’t think of others at all. Yet, we don’t often think of others as all being all that important to us, never mind potential candidates for great undertakings and discoveries. When we do, it’s often in a passive way, like donating to some faceless cause.
We often allow ourselves to be assigned to “niches,” in order to be able to find some “purpose” in our lives. This habit of pigeonholing ourselves for the illusion of security is simply too constricting for the human spirit to willfully bear. So, too many of us allow our wills to be broken. Many of us fall into a depressed, unfulfilling existence as human cattle, the industrial cogs of human machinery, for which is the basis of capitalism itself. The irony is that the primary purpose of founding the United States of America was to attempt to prevent this very thing, in pursuit of the ever-elusive American Dream!
We often allow ourselves to be assigned to “niches,” believing that by pigeonholing ourselves we will be able to find some “purpose” in our lives. Sadly, this habit of pigeonholing ourselves for the illusion of security is simply too constricting for the human spirit to willfully bear. When these “niches” end up becoming irrelevant or can’t allow us to make an honest living, too many of us allow our wills to be broken. Many of us fall into a depressed, unfulfilling existence as human cattle, the industrial cogs of human machinery, for which is the basis of capitalism itself.
The irony is that the primary purpose of founding the United States of America was to attempt to prevent this very thing, in pursuit of the ever-elusive American Dream! Thing is, it’s very difficult to engage in an agape love with others when you are constantly in a fight to stay solvent, scraping by just to have sufficient food and shelter.
This is why agape love is so important. When we recognize that we all depend on each other, as much as we sometimes deny this fact, the natural inclination should be to remember that being gracious and loving is key to retaining the best of our humanity. Without agape, you get the nasty negativity, fear, and even hatred that makes every day life often a struggle to live.
We Must Love One Another Because We Aren’t Perfect
Whatever we do, we must never think of things that happen to us as “divine accidents.” None of us are an accident, not really. If you can’t explain your reason to be, you’d have to ask the universe. I don’t believe that Fate is even a real thing, but I do believe that there are forces in the universe that allow us opportunities to better the lives and fortunes of others. Whether you call that a “divine accident” or not is up to you, but I prefer to think of it as the Divine Mind having set things in motion at the beginning of Time as we know it.
If there are any “divine accidents” to be considered, it’s that wonderful “divine accident” product of human cognition that we need to place paramount above all others. We must learn to appreciate that we are all born into this world for a reason. Finding a reason to hate another person is useless and counterproductive to the advancement of the human condition. Instead, we need to learn to love ourselves with agape and to do the same for those around us.
We are all born into this universe with limitless potential. But, there are many obstacles, different perspectives, and ideas which don’t always intermingle. Yet, it is human nature to see the world from an egocentric point of view, where the perspective of others is often dismissed as useless or less important than one’s own. The reality is that all of our perspectives are important; it’s just that too often they are distorted. Unfortunately, you can’t make anyone love you, but you can still love them; this is better for you in the end because at least you don’t continue the cycle of hate.
And, sadly, yes, sometimes the best way to love someone is to let them go or simply let them be. I’ve found that out the hard way. But, whatever you do, don’t hate. Just let things be and work on yourself; never try to fix others, just love them.
I love you all, my fellow human beings, even those who probably despise me for one reason or another. I refuse to hate someone just because they choose to be hateful. While I’m not going out of my way to associate with my enemies, it doesn’t mean I can’t have an agape love for them. Most people aren’t as bad as you might think.
So, if you ever need to find a purpose in your life, just learn to love those around you graciously and unconditionally. That’s what ended up working out for me, and it could just as easily work out for you!
~ Amelia <3
Originally written New Year’s Day 2011, Revised January 20, 2023.
Thanks to Thomas Slatin for her invaluable input on this piece!