Powered by
Movable Type 3.2
Design by
Danny Carlton





Made with NoteTab

July 09, 2002

It's Not Bad, You Just Haven't Figured Out Why It's Good, Yet

I'm known for being opinionated. What this means is that I know how to make up my mind, while others vacillate. I rarely say that I "believe" something is a certain way. It's redundant. Either it is or it isn't, and if I'm at the point of believing one way or the other, then why piddle around with words -- it's that way. This idea of truth being relative is nonsense, and the constant use of "I believe" to tell one's views on a subject just reinforces that nonsense. This annoys some people to no end, because they're used to this soft, pliable way most people express ideas, as if the the sky may be blue for one person, but not for the other person standing three feet away. But it cuts to the quick of what I want to say, and allows me to cut through a lot of illogical nonsense that most other people tolerate.

Take religion for instance. You can divide the world into three types of people: Those who believe there is no God and everything is an accident; Those who believe there is a God, but everything's still an accident; and those who believe there is a God, and everything has a purpose. Most Americans claim to belong to the latter group, but really aren't consistent about it. I run into this problem when I tell people that nothing that happens to you in life is bad, you just haven't figured out yet why it's good. The vast majority of people have a really hard time with this, even though it's entirely consistent with that last category of people, which most people claim to belong to.

I've known of people in the first two groups who hold this outlook on life, and they generally tend to be much happier people, but the problem is that everyone who is in the last group, should hold this outlook, but so few do. Now if you belong to one of the first two groups, take the following as a sort of analytical look at the logical rules of a differing culture. Kinda like the Agnostic journalist who attended Criswell college for a short period in order to do a story in Christian Fundamentalism. His conclusion was that, even though he remained an Agnostic, he couldn't understand why, if someone claimed to be a Christian, they would have a problem with any of the miracles in the Bible. It showed that he was able to look at another belief system, without letting his own views prejudice his observation.

So how can I say that nothing that happens to you is bad? Easy.

Let's say I want to play the best chess player in the world. I have no earthly idea who that would be, but let's just pretend I'm going to play him (or her, whatever the case may be). Now, understand, I'm a mediocre chess player, at best. I know the rules, and that's pretty much it. I've always meant to study the strategies better, but I'm bad about procrastinating. (Y'know someday I need to start a Procrastinators Anonymous group. Anyway . . .) As I understand the way really, really good chess players play, they think quite a few moves in advance. So in this imagined game between me and the world's greatest chess player, the game would pretty much last just as long as the other guy wanted it to. Being as bad a player as I am, I'd probably confuse him at first by making completely idiotic moves which would of course be unpredictable, but in chess such an opponent is quickly handled, by forcing them to make certain moves. So with few exceptions the game would go exactly as my opponent wanted it to.  Now we'd all agree that this is a likely scenario (were it to actually take place). A master chess player completely dominating the game when playing a barely mediocre amateur.

So if there is a God (the master chess player), and everything has a purpose, then anything we (the terribly bad chess players) might assume is bad, is really something good, we just haven't figured out why. Before you go off on some nonsense about whether God's intensions are good, think about it. If He really had bad intentions, don't you think He could make the world a heck of a lot worse than the mess we've managed to make?

Still not with me yet?

Ok, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking of all those tragedies throughout history -- 9/11 would probably come quickest to mind. Remember I'm talking about things that are assumed to be bad for an individual, specifically an individual that believes there is a God and that everything has a purpose. Another assumption that accompanies that viewpoint is that there is an eternity and therefore life on earth is just the briefest of beginnings to the whole. Yeah, I agree, that's too esoteric for most people to really accept, even to those that claim to believe it. I know it's true, but actually seeing my life in that capacity is hard, really hard. Sort of like comprehending the curvature of the earth by just looking around you. Or that you are only one of 7 billion some-odd people on this planet. Sure we can say we know it, but do we really comprehend the significance of it? Few if any do. But we can a little bit to the extent that we put into action smaller applications of the bigger concept. We are only one of 7 billion whatever -- we think of others, not just ourselves. Life here is a short introduction to eternity -- accept that all of it is good. 

So what about those tragedies? When you look at 9/11 in terms of individuals, you have to remember that, individually, those people, like all of us had a chance to die of something that day. Each day in 2001 an average of somewhere around 6,500 people died. So each day of that year and this year the equivalent of two 9/11 disasters has happened, except not all at once. The point I'm trying to make is that the tragedy comes from that they all died at the same time. We all know death will come eventually, and if, as we're assuming, life is just the intro to eternity, and the time of our death is in God's hand, the tragedy isn't that the individual died, but that we, the survivors will miss them, terribly. But is it bad that we miss them? Can you imagine how bad it would be if someone died, and they weren't missed? So grief isn't a bad thing, it's a good thing, it's a tribute to the importance and value that person had in our lives. Sure it's painful, but so is childbirth, we don't call that bad just because it's painful. So, that someone died isn't bad (they're in a better place) that their loved ones grieve isn't bad (It's a tribute to the departed). In the end, if we look at it on the individual level (which is the premise) we find good. 

What about pain? I could go into all kinds of stuff to explain this, but the quickest way is the following analogy. Let's say you were sitting in your living room, kicked back, relaxed, reading a newspaper, and a mad man, unbeknownst to you, tossed a grenade under the recliner you were sitting in. I was also in the room, and saw the grenade. Unable to reach it (it's beneath the recliner, remember) I grabbed you and jump through the front window with you which causes you to break your arm. For about three seconds, before the grenade goes off,  you glare at me, furious that I'd do something like that and break your arm. At that point the only info you have is that I grabbed you, jumped through your expensive window, and broke your arm. You'd be thinking what kind of deranged psychopath are you dealing with. Then BOOM!!! 

Suddenly my actions don't seem so deranged, do they? But for those few seconds, it was very logical for you to assume I'd gone bonkers.

Let's look at some real life illustrations. A 25 year-old guy, living a wild and hard life, full of promiscuous sex and drug abuse, gets AIDS. Bad? What kind of life does a 25 year old in that kind of lifestyle have? Pretty empty and shallow. But having contracted AIDS, the guy takes a serious look at his life. Now that he's told he's going to die, he starts trying to make his life count. The following years are full of meaning and purpose. This isn't just a pie in the sky story. This exact scenario has happened to hundreds of men, many still alive. In fact some of the very early patients diagnosed with AIDS in the early 80s fit this description, and believe it or not remain alive today, living thriving, productive lives, that they would have scoffed at in their carefree, irresponsible days.

A young co-ed, leaving an evening class, returns to her car to find she'd locked her keys inside. It's dark, and the parking lot is empty, at least she assumes it is. Bad situation, right? Well that particular co-ed remember that a friend in the dorms might still be in. He was, but he was going somewhere. A friend of his, visiting, volunteered to help her. After 45 minutes, the car was opened, and the co-ed offered the guy a ride to where he was going. You'd think that would be a nice enough ending, but 13 years and 4 kids later, that co-ed is really glad she got locked out of her car so she could meet her future husband, me.

Comments

Posted by Jack Lewis at July 9, 2002 05:40 PM