I came across a Salon article about people who have lucky or miraculous escapes from disaster and who, quite often, read a larger existential meaning into their survival. The author, Matthew Hutson, has a background in cognitive science and the article is excerpted from a new book of his that's critical of "magical thinking," so naturally he has no patience with this attitude. Here's his snarky conclusion:
You want to believe that all those flukes of luck leading to where you are were somehow meant for you. Customized kismet means someone’s got your back. It also means that those events that happened for a reason may be building up to some future purpose. It gives the entire story of your life both continuity and a destination, something to strive for. You were put here for a reason, you matter, and you’re on a mission. Everything before now was to prepare you for your calling! The universe is counting on you! Now hop to it!!!
Sometimes it’s fun to pretend.
Let's leave aside the fact that Hutson can't possibly know whether or not there is a larger meaning to these (or any) events, or if someone up there has or has not "got your back." He may say he's being scientific, but really he's operating on the basis of unstated materialist assumptions, which he holds, evidently, as an article of faith.
Leave aside also the fact that many of the most enlightened figures in history have said quite plainly that there is a higher purpose and meaning to life, and that the great error of most people is to deny it or not even to look for it. Whole civilizations and cultures have been built on these teachings, and most art, at least prior to the 20th century, reflects this worldview.
But forget all that. Here's what struck me. Since Hutson characterizes all the statements in the first paragraph as merely pretending, he presumably believes that none of them is true. What is true, we are left to conclude, is the exact opposite. So if we don't want to pretend, but instead want to face reality like mature adults, we should believe something like this:
None of the key developments in your life was somehow meant for you. No one is looking out for you. No events in your past happened for a reason, and they aren't building up to any future purpose. The story of your life has no continuity and no destination - heck, it's not even a story - and there is nothing to strive for. You were not put here for a reason, you don't matter, and you're deluded if you think you have a "mission" in life. Face facts! You have no calling! The universe couldn't care less about you! Just give up!!!
Inspiring, isn't it? And materialists wonder why people find their philosophy unfulfilling.