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Go Beyond Reason

© 2014 by Jennifer Read Hawthorne

One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the
mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.
Albert Einstein

My friend and I were leaving her parents’ townhouse in New Orleans when we got held up because she couldn’t find the key to lock it. She said, “I wonder what was on the road that we were meant to miss.” It was the first time I had ever thought about delays and obstacles being blessings in disguise.

But didn’t we hear hundreds of stories that confirmed this following 9/11, stories of people who should have been in the Twin Towers when they were destroyed—but weren’t?

We read on the internet about the head of one company who arrived late that day because his son started kindergarten. Another man was alive because it was his turn to bring doughnuts to the office.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn’t go off in time. Another missed her bus. One's car wouldn't start. One couldn't get a taxi. Still another got stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike because of an accident.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change. One went back to answer the telephone. One had a child that dawdled and didn't get ready as soon as he should have.

One man put on a new pair of shoes that morning and developed a blister on his foot before he got to work. He is alive today because he stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid.

The stories are endless, as they always are in times of disaster—and just as true in the opposite direction. While some people’s lives are saved because of an unanticipated change to their routine, others undoubtedly lose their lives for the same reason.

For those who escape disaster with their lives, the feeling is always one of the miraculous, which is certainly true of an event that occurred in the life of Indian clothes designer Meenakshi Advani. It was the custom for the employees of her clothing manufacturing facility in Mumbai to work until about 7:00 p.m. On this particular day, however, everything had gone smoothly. Work had been completed early, and the entire staff of 65 was ready to leave by the time Meenakshi made her final rounds at 6:05.

But in spite of their smiling, eager faces and their back packs already on, signifying they were ready to rush out, Meenakshi felt compelled to hold them back. First, she asked them for a detailed report of the day. Then she started speaking to them about preparations for the next day. As she was speaking, she was thinking to herself how nice it was that they were going home early for a change. She asked herself: Why am I talking so much?  I should just let them go. What I am saying can really wait until tomorrow. I need to let them go. Are they even listening to me?

It was clear that they were getting antsy and a little irritated. Finally, at 6:20 p.m., she let them off the hook. They were like a group of eager school kids who could hardly wait for the bell to ring. As she told them goodbye, they rushed out for the train station, just a five-minute walk from the office.

Moments later, Meenakshi was sitting in her car ready to leave when she received a call from a friend. She learned that there had been a huge bomb blast on one of the trains on the western railway line—the line most of her employees traveled home on.

She tried to make sense of what had happened. Phone lines were jammed, so she couldn’t reach anyone. She sat trying to figure out the timing of everything that happened, but all she could hope for was that some of them had missed the bombed train.             To her immense relief, at around 6:35 p.m., a staff member called to tell her that the one embroiderer who had left earlier than the others had heard that another train had just been bombed, and stayed behind to stop all the remaining staff from getting on any of the later trains. She suddenly realized, If I hadn’t kept them late, talking and going over plans, they might have all been killed! She felt deeply humbled, as if some guiding hand had used her to save them.

The next morning they learned that several trains had been bombed in a matter of 11 minutes, starting at 6:24. More than two hundred people had lost their lives; more than 700 had been wounded in the attacks.


Meenakshi’s story points out how sometimes we have to go beyond reason, beyond rational thought, to understand why things unfold the way they do. Like my New Orleans friend’s comment indicated, there is likely to be a bigger picture. We may not be able to stand back in the midst of the situation to “get it” at the time, but hindsight will reveal that there was more to it than met the eye.

And have you ever noticed that, when asked “Why?” about something, you can’t always answer? The brain can’t find the logic, but you just have to say, “I don’t know; it just doesn’t feel right to me.”

Usually, those instincts are right. Sometimes, it’s just okay to go beyond reason.