Saturday, October 1, 2011

Two Baskets of Mysteries

Why does tragedy scar some people's lives while others escape the carnage of apparently random misfortune? We all have only partial control of what happens to us. Most of the time we are weak and vulnerable. Any single car journey I make could be my last. I am relatively healthy now but I could be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow. Anything could happen to me or anyone else in this crazy rollercoaster ride called life. But what's the point? So far I have pretty much cruised through life unscathed. Why have I been so blessed when others have been hammered? If 1 in 4 children have been sexually abused, why wasn't I one of them? We hear so many stories of children with serious illness, yet the worst thing my teenagers have been afflicted with is a 24 hour gastro bug.

I could spend the rest of my life presenting examples of the seeming randomness of life but I still wouldn't be able to answer the question, "why?" Perhaps a better question would be: is it even possible to answer the question "why?"

The latter question I can answer. There is much in life which can only be described as inexplicable, as mystery. There is a difference however between mystery that isn't understood, and mystery which can't be understood. Mystery that isn't understood suggests that it is at least possible to find some rational explanation for the unknown. Much like an Agatha Christie novel, one only needs to investigate the clues and apply logic, and the mystery can be solved. Life is not like that.

The mystery of life and its irregular bestowal of blessings and curses upon participating individuals, that is, all of us, cannot be understood. It is, I believe, very wise to know your own limitations. The mystery of random suffering cannot be solved.

There are then, if you accept this premise, two possible responses. Many people take the philosophical view that is so eloquently summarized in the bumper sticker slogan, "shit happens". They accept life as it is without needing a reason or an explanation. That's just the way it is. Others don't need an explanation because they know if they were told the answer, they would not understand it anyway. They do, however, like me, believe that there is a reason. That reason can't be comprehended by feeble finite minds because it emanates from the infinite and indescribable awesomeness of God. There is a reason. There is purpose.

Many say the purpose of life is simply to be born, to live, breed, eat drink and be merry, suffer, ride the rollercoaster, and then die. If that's all there is, then I want my money back. What a rip off! What a waste of precious time. Almost as great a mystery as the question of suffering, is the question why people accept the philosophy that we live, we suffer and then we die, and there is no point to it. That's not good enough for me. I need to know there is more, even if I can't understand it, and I do...and I can't.

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