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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Grand Plan Myth

In England we've been preoccupied with the news of a vintage Hawker Hunter jet crashing into a busy A-road on 22 August, and when I read about the victims of the Shoreham air crash, I feel gutted about all the good people we've lost.

Alongside that, I read about so-called Islamic State whack jobs destroying part of what's considered the most important temple at the ancient Syrian site of Palmyra. And you think, why couldn't these loonies find themselves under some free-falling jet?

When we are faced with what seems such prima facie injustices from the headlines, some of us immediately want to comfort ourselves with what I describe as "the grand plan myth". There is some greater purpose, we say, for all of this that we don't know about - some way that all this will turn out all right as long as we believe it will.


Yeah. You read that right. Just in case you double-blinked, I'll write it again. It'll save the lazy from having to look back up:

It's bullshit. There is no grand plan that looks bleak on the face of it, but is really working towards some greater good. The reason being that plans don't work that way in the real world.

When you make plans to complete certain goals do you make them look like they are working against you, because mysteriously some divine deux ex machina is going to save the day? Why would you do that? Are you insane? Or just have a fetish for suffering?

What would be the purpose of such a mystic purpose? If you believe in the ancient classics, deities that were more like mortals in behaviour liked to play games. You could imagine such predestined pranks from fickle fairies, perhaps.

But not from some strangely silent, yet strict God, who lays down so many restrictive rules. Who employs bouncers at the gates of Heaven, as though Paradise were an elite club either for pillow-case wearing conservative WASPs or manical mullahs salivating over their quota of virgins.

That type of wrathful God would say it like it is, surely? He wouldn't waste his time playing games.

Not unless he is saying it like it is, of course. That in this world of ours, good, decent, ordinary people like the victims of Shoreham deserve to die in such a horrible way, while cowardly militant mullahs can go on the rampage to destroy things that can't fight back.

It doesn't bear thinking about, does it? So, in one way, I can understand why we would want to believe that there is indeed a greater, grand plan where all this may look unjust, but, in fact, is progressing towards a far greater justice that is divine.

But I don't believe that. I believe the plan is clear. Life isn't just. It isn't fair. No one said it was going to be. Life is opportunity. We as humans have great potential to mould those opportunities justly or unjustly.

Those people who made good work of their lives will inspire their loved ones to continue that work. That is the legacy of a good person lost. It becomes an opportunity for one to become many, to counter the balance of a life cut down in its prime. There can be no grander plan than that.

As for destructive whackos like the militant (PEN)IS group? Their end will come, and people will celebrate, for entirely opposite reasons. And their wasted opportunities for a just life, will make their death even more so.

Instead of putting our faith in myths when faced with injustice (which is really just the fabric of life), we need to put faith in ourselves and turn every given opportunity into a chance to do good work.

Good work can mean anything: Kabul families struggling to smile amid rising violence, hundreds of youngsters taking part in a London carnival. People coming together to make life better, even if only for a short while.

For as difficult as life is, we can either make it worse or better. We could melt the ice curtain that divides American families from Russian cousins if we wanted to, we could stop the human rights abuses of journalists in Egypt if we had the inclination.

Likewise, our greatest young minds are imagining what our warships will be like in 2050, when we could use the technology to stop the need for ships made for war.

We can make our nations the best or the worst places for people to live in. I'm proud of the fact that the United Kingdom was recently revealed by the International Lesbian and Gay Association as the best place in Europe to be gay, but it also has one of the worst - Northern Ireland.

I'm saddened, too, by the secrets of China, and the miserable lives some people lead. So desperate are some for love they will have facial reconstruction to look more appealing. That is just awful.

There is no grand plan to any of it, apart from one: The infinite opportunities that arise for us to make good work of our lives. The most important thing you can learn is personal responsibility. Bad things happen, it's your job to overcome them. That's not a myth. It's a real, living, breathing story in the making.

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