Reconsidering Perfection

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” – Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata

This sentiment has been around for a long time, and many people would like it to be true.  If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.  Step 5 of Steps to Knowledge (“I believe what I want to believe”) tells us that any connection between what we believe to be so, and what actually is so, is strictly coincidental.  Just as I should be suspicious of what I want, maybe I should be suspicious of what I believe.

Do you sincerely believe that everyone is where they need to be?  Let us conduct a thought experiment.  Suppose there was a law saying the idea “everyone is where they need to be” was not allowed to be true, with serious consequences for violation of this law.  Suppose this idea was arrested by the authorities, and charged with the crime of being true.  Suppose you were the prosecuting attorney, and it was your task to prove to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this idea was true.  How might you proceed?  I will let you think about that.  What would the defense attorney say?  She might say “Do you believe that whoever used the chemical weapons in Syria are where they need to be?”  The defense attorney would bring forth one example after another where it would strain credibility to believe that a certain person is where they need to be.

What if, instead of a criminal case, this was a civil case, where the idea “everyone is where they need to be” is being sued for being true.  In this case, the standard isn’t “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but “preponderance of evidence.”  As the plaintiff’s attorney, it would be your job to present evidence that this idea is more likely than not to be true.  But I still don’t know how you would respond to these words from the defendant’s attorney:

“People are suffering because they aren’t where they need to be, doing the things they need to be doing, living the life they know they must live.”

Everyone is where they need to be?  Perhaps we need to think this out again.

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