The blog of Bill Gates
gatesnotes
The blog of Bill Gates

Not everything happens for a reason

Log in
|
Sign up
 
GO
Your search for "", with selected filters, does not match any posts. Please try again with a different search term or reset filters.

Popular searches include: Books, Malaria, and Future of Food.
RELATED ARTICLES ON
Logout:


spacer
Become a Gates Notes Insider
Join the Gates Notes community to comment on stories, access exclusive content, participate in giveaways, and more.
Already an Insider? Log in
spacer
LOG IN
SIGN UP
Sign up with your social account:
Sign up
Sign up
Or sign up with email:
TITLE
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
PASSWORD
ADDRESS
Why are we collecting this information? Gates Notes may send a welcome note or other exclusive Insider mail from time to time. Additionally, some campaigns and content may only be available to users in certain areas. Gates Notes will never share and distribute your information with external parties.
ADDRESS LINE 1
Bill may send you a welcome note or other exclusive Insider mail from time to time. We will never share your information.
ADDRESS LINE 2
CITY
STATE / PROVINCE / REGION
ZIP / POSTAL CODE
COUNTRY
Sign up
Join the Gates Notes community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, subscribe to your favorite topics and more. We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign Up FAQ. By clicking "Sign Up" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
Street address
City
postal_town
State Zip code
administrative_area_level_2
Country
Data
Personal Information
Title
First name
Last name
Save
Cancel
Email address
This email is already registered
Save
Cancel
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Password
Save
Cancel
Address
ADDRESS LINE 1
ADDRESS LINE 2
CITY
STATE / PROVINCE / REGION
ZIP / POSTAL CODE
COUNTRY
Save
Cancel
Email & Notification Settings
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
Send me comment notifications via email
On-screen comment notifications
Interests
+ Saving Lives
+ Energy Innovation
+ Improving Education
+ Alzheimer's
+ Philanthropy
+ Book Reviews
+ About Bill Gates
Deactivate Account
Click the link below to begin the account deactivation process. Deactivate account If you want to permanently delete your account and remove its content, please send us a request here.
Ok
Gates Notes Insider Sign Up FAQ

Q. How do I create a Gates Notes account?

A. There are three ways you can create a Gates Notes account:

  • Sign up with Facebook. We’ll never post to your Facebook account without your permission.
  • Sign up with Twitter. We’ll never post to your Twitter account without your permission.
  • Sign up with your email. Enter your email address during sign up. We’ll email you a link for verification.

Q. Will you ever post to my Facebook or Twitter accounts without my permission?

A. No, never.

Q. How do I sign up to receive email communications from my Gates Notes account?

A. In Account Settings, click the toggle switch next to “Send me updates from Bill Gates.”

Q. How will you use the Interests I select in Account Settings?

A. We will use them to choose the Suggested Reads that appear on your profile page.

spacer
BACK
Forgot your password?
Enter the email you used to sign up and a reset password link will be sent to you.
EMAIL
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
Reset Password
Bill's Suggested Posts
I've read this book
Books to Read
Reset your password.
Set New Password
Your password has been reset. You will now be redirected to the sign in page, or you can click here
Ok
Get emails from Bill Gates
Send me updates from Bill
You must provide an email
Send me comment notifications via email
On-screen comment notifications
This email is already registered
Continue
We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign up FAQ. By clicking "Continue" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
spacer
You're in!
Please check your email and click the link provided to verify your account.
Didn't get an email from us? Resend verification email
spacer
Update Your Profile Information
UPLOAD A PROFILE PICTURE
your image
Uh Oh!
The image you are trying to upload is either too big or is an unacceptable format. Please upload a .jpg or .png image that is under 25MB.
Ok
Title
First name
Last name
Save
Cancel
Email address
This email is already registered
Save
Cancel
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
EMAIL AND NOTIFICATION SETTINGS
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
Send me comment notifications via email
On-screen comment notifications
SELECT YOUR INTERESTS
+ Saving Lives
+ Energy Innovation
+ Improving Education
+ Alzheimer's
+ Philanthropy
+ Book Reviews
+ About Bill Gates
Continue
Confirm Account Deactivation
Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?
Deactivating your account will unsubscribe you from Gates Notes emails, and will remove your profile and account information from public view on the Gates Notes. Please allow for 24 hours for the deactivation to fully process. You can sign back in at any time to reactivate your account and restore its content.
Deactivate My Acccount
Go Back
Your Gates Notes account has been deactivated.
Come back anytime.
Welcome back
In order to unsubscribe you will need to sign-in to your Gates Notes Insider account
Once signed in just go to your Account Settings page and set your subscription options as desired.
Sign In
Request account deletion
We’re sorry to see you go. Your request may take a few days to process; we want to double check things before hitting the big red button. Requesting an account deletion will permanently remove all of your profile content. If you’ve changed your mind about deleting your account, you can always hit cancel and deactivate instead.
Submit
Cancel
Thank You! Your request has been sent
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
This verification token has expired.
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
Your account has been deactivated. Sign up to re-activate your account.
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.

Thanks for visiting the Gates Notes.
We'd like your feedback.

Yes, I'll take the survey No thanks
The blog of Bill Gates
Not everything happens for a reason
Follow
Next
 
Profile & Settings
Sign Out
Profile & Settings
Sign Out
Hello,
Profile & Settings
Comment History
Sign Out
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
today
This verification token has expired.
today
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
today
Your account has been deactivated. Sign up to re-activate your account.
today
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
today
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
today
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.
today
0
0
0
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
today
This verification token has expired.
today
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
today
Your account has been deactivated. Sign up to re-activate your account.
today
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
today
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
today
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.
today
Back to profile
Comment History
You have not left any comments yet.
title
in reply to
name
description
It looks like you're using an older version of Internet Explorer which may not display all the features on this site. Upgrade Now » close
Why ask why?

Not everything happens for a reason

I spend my days asking “Why?” Why do people get stuck in poverty? Why do mosquitoes spread malaria? Being curious and trying to explain the world around us is part of what makes life interesting. It’s also good for the world—scientific discoveries happen because someone insisted on solving some mystery. And it’s human nature, as anyone who’s fielded an endless series of questions from an inquisitive 5-year-old can tell you.

But as Kate Bowler shows in her wonderful new memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, some “why” questions can’t be answered satisfactorily with facts. Bowler was 35 years old, married to her high-school sweetheart, and raising their young son when she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. When she got sick, she didn’t want to know what was making her body’s cells mutate and multiply out of control. She had deeper questions: Why me? Is this a test of my character?

The book is about her search for answers that align with her deeply held religious beliefs. A professor at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina, she grew up in a family of Mennonites and wrote a history of the prosperity gospel, the idea popular among some Christians that God rewards the faithful with health and wealth. Before she got sick, Bowler didn’t subscribe to the prosperity gospel, but she didn’t exactly reject it either. “I had my own prosperity gospel, a flowering weed grown in with all the rest,” she writes. “I believed God would make a way.” Then came her diagnosis. “I don’t believe that anymore.”

Given the topic, I wasn’t surprised to find that Bowler’s book is heartbreaking at times. But I didn’t expect it to be funny too. Sometimes it’s both in the same passage. In one scene, Bowler learns there’s a 3 percent chance that her cancer might be susceptible to an experimental treatment. A few weeks later, her doctor’s office calls with good news: She’s among the 3 percent. “I start to yell. I have the magic cancer! I have the magic cancer!” She turns to her husband: “ ‘I might have a chance,’ I manage to say between sobs…. He hugs me tightly, resting his chin on my head. And then he releases me to let me sing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and do a lot of punching the air, because it is in my nature to do so.”

The central questions in this book really resonated with me. On one hand, it’s nihilistic to think that every outcome is simply random. I have to believe that the world is better when we act morally, and that people who do good things deserve a somewhat better fate on average than those who don’t.

But if you take it to extremes, that cause-and-effect view can be hurtful. Bowler recounts some of the unintentionally painful things that well-meaning people told her, like: “This is a test and it will make you stronger.” I have also seen how this line of thinking affected members of my own extended family. All four of my grandparents were deeply devout members of a Christian sect who believed that if you got sick, it must be because you did something to deserve it. When one of my grandfathers became seriously ill, he struggled to figure out what he might have done wrong. He couldn’t think of anything, so he blamed his wife. He died thinking she had caused his illness by committing some unknown sin.

Bowler answers the “why” question in a compelling way: by refusing to accept the premise. As the title suggests, she rejects the idea that we need a reason for everything that happens. But she also rejects the nihilist alternative. As she said in one TV interview: “If I could pick one thing, it would be that everyone simmers down on the explanations for other people’s suffering, and just steps in with love.” She even includes an appendix with six ways you can support a friend or loved one who’s sick. It’s worth dog-earing for future reference.

Everything Happens belongs on the shelf alongside other terrific books about this difficult subject, like Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air and Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. Bowler’s writing is direct and unsentimental. She's not saying her life is unfair or that she deserved better. She’s just telling you what happened.

I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that Bowler has too much integrity as a writer to offer pat answers or magic solutions. When I was done with the book, I went online to see how she was doing. I was happy to find that she was still keeping a blog about faith, morality, and mortality. It’s inspiring to see this thoughtful woman face such weighty topics with honesty and humor.

Also on Gates Notes