September 12, 2005

It is G-d's Will

I cannot count the number of times someone has told me that I shouldn't be upset because whatever it was that happened is part of G-d's will. I find that line to be more than irritating, I find it patronizing, simplistic and ridiculous.

In large part this feeling is because of the contradictions and inconsistencies I see. Last week I read that there were radical Islamists celebrating Hurricane Katrina and calling it G-d's punishment. They even assigned it the rank of private. But it is only nine months ago that one of the most devastating natural disasters ever The Asian Tsunami destroyed uncounted towns and villages and killed hundreds of thousands of people, a substantial number who were Muslim.

It seems a little contradictory, dontcha think.

When I speak to parents who have lost children I cannot reconcile their grief with comments that suggest that G-d wanted their children more than they did. When my friend 'D' died from complications caused by a brain tumor I was told this on more than one occasion. I almost throttled the last person who said it.

The simple truth for me is that some of these things do not make sense and I don't know how to make sense of them. And that inability to make sense of the senseless is a challenge that I live with.

'D's first encounter with the brain tumor hit in 1994. He was a couple of months short of 25. The sequel to it came about 18 months later. I remember speaking with him about it and discussing what he could expect in the future. He looked at me and said "When people say that 'shit happens' I am who they are talking about."

We spent hours discussing this and I remember many of those conversations in great detail. During another one he told me that sometimes you have to have the intestinal fortitude to accept that you do not understand and or will not get any answers to your questions. I told him that it sounded like a polite way of being told to "fuck off" and that I preferred a more direct response.

He responded by pointing to the scar on his head and asking me to consider what it meant to have gobs of grey matter scooped out. I told him that I didn't follow where he was going and he said that it really didn't matter because in the end I would end up in the same place which he described as frustration central in far more colorful terms.

Bottom line: I agreed with him that sometimes you have to shrug your shoulders and keep moving. It is not a matter of ignoring or minimizing the importance/pain/frustration but accepting that we do not know why everything happen and that there may not be a reason. Happy endings exist in the movies but in real life they sometimes fall short.

So the best that we can do is to just live our lives. It is not profound and it is not always satisfactory, but sometimes that is all we get.

3 comments:

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

This is such a complicated subject, that I do not even know where to begin.

If you have not read play THE TRIAL OF GOD by Elie Wiesel, please do. You can read it in a half day, and it deals beautifully with this issue from the lenses of a survivor, but through the pograms of the 1600s.

Ultimately, what difference does it make if something is or is not God's will? A tragedy exists, nevertheless, as do all of the blessings of live...How to explain the unexplainable has kept Rabbis, men and women busy for thousands of years. (part of me is playing a devil's advocate here.)

Stephen (aka Q) said...

I agree with Barbara. I think the "Why?" question is utterly useless.

Actually, it serves one purpose: it makes people feel better. But only at a terrible cost.

Let's imagine, for a moment, that the thousands of people who died in New Orleans deserved it. That God meted out a just punishment on them.

But I know I haven't committed the terrible sins they committed; so I am secure. God won't do to me what he did to them. There, I feel better now.

Too bad about those thousands of people, who have suffered an unspeakable tragedy, and now get my self-righteous judgement dumped on their heads, too.

Let's go back to my first statement: "Why?" is an utterly useless question. It doesn't stop tragedies from happening, and it doesn't make the victims feel better after the fact. On the contrary, it makes them feel much worse — as you illustrated from your personal experience.

God bless you, Jack, for having the courage to take reality as it comes — the whole package, good and evil — without embracing simplistic "answers", but maintaining your faith nonetheless.
Q

Jack's Shack said...

Hi Barbara,

Good points.

Q,

Well said as usual. I learned the hard way that things are not always good nor easy, all we can do is live.

The trick is finding the joy even in times of sadness.