To Abide by the Meme or Not

By Amanda Moreno

In the past week I have come across two articles condemning some current memes that I happen to at least partially agree with. One is “everything happens for a reason.” The other is the concept of radical self-love.

Photo by graywacke/A Landing a Day

Photo by graywacke/A Landing a Day

Since reading the critiques I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of keeping context and privilege in mind.

I’ve also been thinking about the ways we seem to have a compulsion towards vilifying ‘the other’; head straight into conquer/war/polarization mode; and generally conflate any kind of belief with religion — and therefore with primitive (and ultimately uncivilized) thinking. All are very problematic. It can also be problematic to discuss these things in a way that doesn’t essentially recreate that dynamic.

In the first article, Everything Doesn’t Happen For a Reason, the thing is: I agree with most of what he’s saying, some of it quite emphatically. The importance of standing with a loved one in a time of grief and being present with them without offering solutions or saving them is something I write and talk about often.

The article was really intriguing to me and I had to push my own assumptions out of the way to some extent. I agree that telling someone that “everything happens for a reason” when they are in an acute state of grief can be seen as an act of violence. But I also do believe that everything happens for reason — and for me, it is not a form of bypassing but rather of orienting to my situation.

That outlook needs to be hushed during certain periods. In Steven Forrest’s Inner Sky, his discussion of the archetype of Scorpio touches on the fact that while the Scorpionic type loves to dig deeper in order to truly understand the psyche and ultimately arrive at the truth, the digging can become compulsive. We also need the [Taurean] time to just sit in the grass and breathe and eat some food. When the digging becomes compulsive, we can get moody and broody and depressed. Sometimes we have to stop searching for the truth — or for meaning — and just be.

“Everything happens for a reason” can be used as a crutch or avoidance mechanism, especially when being offered from someone else when you are in the process of grieving. It’s both being used as a crutch by the other person, while at the same time being offered as one for the grieving. I don’t think it’s helpful when being proposed as a source of comfort — at least not for most people.

I remember the first time an astrologer said to me, “when it gets really rough, just imagine yourself somewhere as a being of light looking down at the struggles you’re going through, and remember: you chose this.” Those words were incredibly helpful to me, but I also remember thinking that I kind of wanted to suggest he never ever say that to anyone else.

I also suppose the “everything happens for a reason” concept is an offshoot of the idea that God — and I do mean capital “G” God — won’t give us more than we can handle. Part of the rebellion against the phrase is linked into a deep sense of betrayal by god that permeates the collective, and a deep distrust of religion and religious thinking. And again — sometimes those wounds need to be gone through and processed, and not provided with the Band Aid of someone else’s beliefs.

For me, the languaging is something more along the lines of James Hillman’s idea of “psychological faith.” I don’t believe I’ll be given more than I can handle, although there are times when I have to shake my head at the universe. And hell, maybe it is a crutch. But I also know that in some of the work I do and in some of the things I’ve gone through in life, having faith that there is meaning in it, even when I can’t see it for some time, is an immensely powerful thing.

Don't let the word "change" scare you; Planet Waves just helps you find your flow. Dive in with a Reader Level membership (tell your friends about it!), or a Core Community membership.

Don’t let the word “change” scare you; Planet Waves just helps you find your flow. Wade in with a Reader Level membership (tell your friends about it!), or dive into a Core Community membership.

I also really love this, from the article:

“Some things in life cannot be fixed, they can only be carried.”

I don’t see that as being antithetical to a belief that everything happens for a reason. I myself can hold both beliefs and also go through grieving processes, although sometimes a pause in looking for the meaning of an event or challenge is very necessary. I’m in one of those phases now.

In reading the article about the dangers of the ‘radical self-love’ theme, titled “Positive Attitude” Bullshit: on the Dangers of “Radical Love,” I was once again able to see the author’s point. But again, something about the tone and the language really bothered me. There is a militancy that reminds me of lessons of the Aries-Libra nodal axis.

On the one hand, the expression of voice in this deeply personal and yet collectively relevant way can be so important and relatable. When people who can articulate complex thoughts can write, they should. Writing and language are huge conveyors of meaning. They help us to understand ourselves, giving us a treasure map to help us find truth.

But something in the portrayal still feels somewhat dangerous to me. Perhaps it’s just because I totally believe in the radical self-love thing, while at the same time I am not ever even slightly aligned with the kind of ‘woo’ Oprah preaches (as discussed in the article), even though I have respect for her.

Again, the issue of context comes up. The Aries instinct to express is vitally important — but I think there is a difference between proclaiming your own truth versus giving into what feels like war-time, polarized thinking: These people are wrong and awful and need to be silenced.

The author of this article hits on a topic that I know I’ve participated in several times at Planet Waves. Are slogans such as Radical Self-Love or the notion that meditation can fix everything really appropriate when we think about people who are struggling to get food and water? It’s a very privileged pedestal we get to stand on as we cheer about self-love, yoga and stopping to breathe deep. Remaining sensitive to the context and the fact that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all, end-all-be-all belief is vital.

So much exists in soundbyte form. The tendency towards polarized/football-game mentality seems insidious, even among intellectuals and so many of our strongest mainstream thinkers. Again, I think all of these forms of self-expression are incredible and helpful and necessary in some ways. But seeing our tendency towards pitting ourselves against the ‘other’, vilifying each other, and then starting to strike down has started to make me feel like we’re entering another phase of witch hunts. Hopefully without the actual physical manifestations of punishment this time.

I repeat: this is a loaded, complex and layered topic. Having opportunities to question my own biases and the lenses through which I see things and my own assumptions are important to me, and are opportunities I probably need to latch onto more often.

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About Amanda Moreno

Amanda is an astrologer, soul worker and paradigm buster based in Seattle. Her adventures in these forms of ‘practical woo’ are geared towards helping people to heal themselves and the world. She can be found in the virtual world at

7 thoughts on “To Abide by the Meme or Not

  1. Carolynkc

    Thank you, Amanda, for such an insightful article on what really is a many layered topic.
    When I was 12 I read my sister’s copy of Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell and my faith was blown. Mine was not a family in which you talked about such things. We revered books. The printed word. I told no one and felt bereft.
    After a number of years, I was reintroduced to a different kind of Spirituality. A more inclusive one. I don’t see it as a crutch but as a gift.

    I ‘ll be rereading the article and those sited a number of times.

    Thanks again,

  2. Lizzy

    Such a great article, Amanda. Thank you. I so agree with this: “Everything happens for a reason(…) I don’t think it’s helpful when being proposed as a source of comfort — at least not for most people” Also, after reading terrible accounts of the torture and horror that so many Eritrean refugees have suffered/suffer at the hands of human traffickers, as well as so many other peoples, makes the idea of God not giving people more than they can handle rather obscene. Like Carolynkc, look forward to rereading your article and links.

  3. Cowboyiam

    Amanda I resonate with everything you have said here – except for this rather strong statement which I have posted below. I hope I am mistaking your meaning but if “need to be silenced” means mandatory silencing I am completely opposed. I hope you meant need to be opposed, confronted or resisted.

    (Again, the issue of context comes up. The Aries instinct to express is vitally important — but I think there is a difference between proclaiming your own truth versus giving into what feels like war-time, polarized thinking: These people are wrong and awful and need to be silenced.)

    1. Cowboyiam

      sigh of relief! Thanks for sharing your thoughts so openly because it really is healing to share at the depth you do. Much energy bouncing around these days and clarity is something I struggle to hold onto. Your weekly ponderings resonate and I find myself in much of how you think.

  4. Pisces Sun

    The human spirit and what touches and moves it is unknown when you try to put it into any dimension of time and space let alone fully describe it by time and space. How one relates to art, words, music and anything that is finite yet produced, imaged and imagined yet interpreted, is merely that, interpreted by the senses and soul. Thus words such as “positive thinking brings positive results,” and “things happen for a reason,” will mean and be interpreted by different persons at the time utter/written- not only by those who write or speak them but also who received the words conveyed. What is useful is for the person to take the words and consider, what do these words mean to me? Do they mean that my thoughts and intentions help guide my actions and reactions and thus somehow create my reality?

    Does it mean that I chose some of these realities in previous lifetimes, as evidenced by having a human experience and choosing to be born at a certain place, during a certain time, under certain constellations, to certain parents? These are all personal interpretations that no one having a human experience can ever explain fully explain to another as they cannot explain it to themselves without some form of belief and faith (or lack thereof). It is useful to have the discussion but to declare that the words don’t mean something to some is equally not useful, because those words, as well, lack honesty, because you cannot say those words without also relying upon a form of belief.

    With that said, I believe there are points well made in each article as you Amanda and others have expressed. Being in the moment with anyone and providing empathy, understanding their pain, and being in the quiet or loud, hard and ever-powerful moment of their pain and grief is the greatest gift that we can give to any soul for it is an expression of pure love for another. And any insensitive words are just that, they are spoken for the speaker’s benefit more than the listeners and thus should not be uttered. People who are uncomfortable with themselves or in the moment and who are so conditioned (hence the use of the term “meme” thank you for that term Amanda) don’t always think through the statement until it’s too late because it is a conditioned response to pain as well, which I think is part of what the author is also saying. We rarely allow ourselves to grieve.

    Regarding the second article, I do think from what I know about Oprah, it misstates a lot about Oprah Winfrey. This soul was raped at 9 (non-family member) and grew up in poverty. She has been on a mission for a number of decades to turn her wealth and public figure success into a platform to promote what she believes promote self-consciousness. She has an all-girls school for under-privileged children and many other charities, and is a self-made billionaire, who from what I have read, shares who wealth and time in abundance. Recall that she became successful also during a time when any black person could succeed, Mississippi, then Chicago, during the civil rights and immediate aftermath. Oh yeah, and she is a woman.

    I saw an interview of her once where she spoke to graduate business school at Stanford and she said that during the time of Jerry Springer and Phil Donahue sensationalism (1980s) (her competitors) she found herself twice in a situation where she realized that she had to make a choice about how she was to use her TV program (and it sounded like her decision or the fact that she was influencing the direction of her show was much to the chagrin of her producers at the time). The first time was when she hosted Klu Klux Klan members on the show and realized that they were using her for their own agenda (and this was confirmed, they used the tape as a recruitment tool). The second was when she had a man with his mistress on the show and his wife. The mistress revealed that she was pregnant much to the horror and shame of his wife. She said she felt that lady’s pain and humiliation. At that point (after both shows) she decided that her program was not going to be used by others and that she was going to have an objective (message) for the content of the show, every show. So to Oprah when she “describes positive thinking brings positive results” there is a lot of unpacking of the statement by what she means by that, to her, I think belief in the human spirit, seeing the soul, feeling another’s pain, not being used by another, and using one’s talents for the benefit of others is packed into her statement along with first and foremost, believe in yourself, and you can succeed despite everything that has happened to you including during the toughest of all circumstances. Of course, this is my observation.

  5. Alison Billings

    Amanda – Thank you for a thought-provoking article. I tend to believe the “everything happens for a reason” and radical self-love concepts. In fact, I enjoy a little Oprah every once in awhile. But your piece got me thinking about Why I do, and reading the articles you linked helped me pinpoint the origins of these belief systems.

    My thought is this: I choose to see my life through these lenses because it works for me. It helps me keep moving and stay motivated to get out of bed every day. For me, continually re-orienting my focus on what’s good about my life and circumstances keeps me energized. I’m currently searching for a job and telling myself the job market here sucks, or I’m tired of living paycheck to paycheck NEVER motivates me to sit down and send out resumes. Or walk around town and see if anyone is hiring.

    You’re right – this topic is so complex, rich, and layered. And I think a great place for anyone to start is by asking themselves, What belief systems work the best for ME? What way of thinking helps me stay engaged in the day-to-day task of simply living, regardless of my circumstances?

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