I didn't post on the blog yesterday. I didn't have to; the post from the day before was so busy there wasn't time. Lots of back and forth on the subject of the soul, although we did get sidetracked into the meaning of art and the definition of God, and a few little inconsequential subjects like that. With a total of 23 comments, Finding Fair Hope has established a record; mind you, it was not 23 people making comments as most of the commenters came back two or three times, and I myself posted once under an old alias ("oldphilosopher") just for good measure. That being said, it was a lot of fun to read all that response to one day's blogpost. What to do as an encore might pose a problem.
I'll start with a couple of the questions the man identifying himself as "Officious Oaf" posed on the Lost Souls blog. I presume everyone has heard the old cliché, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Well, here goes.
Why were some miraculously saved while other died in catastrophes, natural and otherwise?
It is unfortunate for us worldly beings that natural catastrophes happen in an apparently random manner. Our minds are wired to expect linear behavior to achieve linear results: We are good, working toward getting better, therefore we should expect that rewards will come to us in the same way. The better people should have more of what they want, whether it be material goods or spiritual enlightenment. Otherwise, why even try to be better?
This kind of thinking leads us to believe that hurricanes are sent to punish the wicked; for example, the city of New Orleans, long known as a haven for decadents, artists, and hedonists, received a catastrophic blow of Biblical proportions a year ago, in order to get the attention of decadent artistic hedonists everywhere. By the same token, if we believe homosexuality to be a sin, the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic makes it clear that there is a God somewhere who wants people to stop having physical same-sex relations. People who believe this must ignore that innocent people died by the hundreds in New Orleans because of Katrina, and that not all homosexuals contract AIDS. Surely an all-knowing Punisher would have better aim than this one does. A lot of innocent, well-meaning churchgoers must die as collateral damage in this holocaustal purge. What kind of god would do this?
The simple answer is that if we believe we are going to be punished by God for our sins on this earth, we are mistaken. It's childish thinking put in our brains when we are children. It's fear of the razor strop, kept alive in many cases by our churches who have their own agenda of keeping their own coffers filled and keeping buns in the pews for generations. A hurricane is not a disaster unless you have a house on the beach. It is a natural phenomenon about which man has known since the beginning of time. If you hear that volcano rumbling, you get out of the way. If you miss the cue, it may be a tragedy for your family, but it's really your own fault as much as the volcano's. If a bad guy gets swallowed up in an earthquake, it's because he did not heed the physical science, not because the Almighty chose to eliminate him for going too far.
When someone dies, we say, "God decided it was his time." That's a poetic way to put it, but it has nothing to do with reality. There are any number of reasons that we die: Old age, disease, accident. Some of them we have a certain amount of control over. But we are not going to beat the odds and not die at all. With the many man-made methods of dying at everyone's disposal, including the automobile, the airplane, cigarettes, alcohol, living on the Coast, we can speed the process without thinking about it. A friend of mine was killed when struck by a car a few weeks ago. This man had gone jogging just about every day for 30 years or more. On this particular morning he was hit by a car. He was jogging, presumably, to prolong his life span. Unfortunately, since automobiles have been invented, there is a chance that one might kill you if you venture into traffic at the wrong moment. This was not God's decision, nor my friend's. It was just a possibility that tragically worked against him. As much as we "love" God, and feel connected to Him, we are not in control of the natural laws. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and, depending on how you feel about death, you may assume he is in a better place now. That's a subject for another post.
The original question was "Why?" Again, we're back to childhood. Why did my big brother get spanked for what I did? It is our fate to ask "why" all our lives, sometimes at the moment when a clear answer will come, sometimes not. Daddy didn't know all the answers. Neither did the minister, the professor, the philosopher in the books one might read. We shall ask why about all kinds of things, as we must. To demand that there is someone who can give us all the answers is to be unsatisfied for a lifetime.
Why do young persons or babies die, when some crotchety, blind, lame, useless persons live into their 90s?
This is one of those wouldn't-it-be-nice-if questions. Another "why." This one presumes a situation abnormal on this plane -- that there be only kind, loving, whole, worthwhile and healthy persons on earth. It also suggests that death is some kind of a punishment for misbehavior or reward for the suffering. It is neither. It is simply a fact of life. It is those who live who suffer when one dies, and when we live we have to put up with crotchety, blind, lame and useless persons as well as beautiful, generous, bright and healthy ones.
It is not our job to judge, but to work with the reality we have. The question "why" may come up in prayer in meditation, and if we are in the right place to receive it, the answer may come too. But a life without questions is not even something to wish for.