Penicillin For The Soul
by Lizard firstname.lastname@example.org
(It doesn't taste as good as soup, but it's a lot more likely to cure you)
If I were a Believer, I would currently be experiencing a crisis of faith, the sort of thing that causes books like "Why Bad Things Happen To Good People", "Chicken Soup For The Soul", and "God Loves You, So He Tortures You For No Good Reason, So Just Shut Up And Take It" to be best-sellers. Fortunately for me -- and the others involved -- I have no faith to be shaken. Or, if I have a faith, it is that the universe is neither good nor evil -- just utterly uncaring, painfully neutral -- and this was confirmed in a direct and unquestionable way.
I am not going to go into details, because they are private, but suffice it to say that two people I care deeply about suffered a grevious, pointless, and senseless loss -- a tragedy which in a world in which there was any sort of inherent justice, any sort of inherent morality, would not have occured. But we do not live in such a world, and so, tragedies occur, to the innocent and guilty alike. There is no God, but the dice are rolled just the same, and the croupier counts the spots with emotionless accuracy. Electrons jump in their shells, atoms crash and rebound, a sagan chains of cause and effect leap from the big bang to today...and the numbers come up. Snake eyes. You lose. Thank you for playing, and please don't think the universe notices or cares, because it does not.
Cliches are cliches because they are true. "This is no justice -- there's just us." That's the core of it. There is no built in order to the universe, no divine sanction on events. If we want justice, we must wrest it from creation by force. We stumble through life believing the rules do not apply to us. We all think, subconsciously, that somewhere there's an escape clause, down in the fine print. "The universe doesn't care about anyone" is the rule. I have found out, quite pointedly, that it does not include, as I've always imagined, the caveat "Except for Lizard and his friends."
No exceptions. None. No court of appeal. No God to repeal the laws on your behalf. No guiding hand, no explanation, no higher purpose. We can scrape out a cheap facsimile of one, if we have to. We can learn from the Titanic that you can't fit 3000 people into lifeboats which can hold half that many. We can excise the tumours from the corpses, freeze them and dissect them and try to find out why they live and how to make them die. We can walk in the ashes of Auschwitz and learn, forevermore, what happens when you have a State that exists for the State alone.
But these are nothing more than mans' attempts to impose purpose on the universe, or at least cut our losses somewhat. There is no inherent, native, justice.
I do not understand how the Believing do it. I think they must all be a little bit mad...to keep twisting and turning reality in their minds, trying to justify the concept of a loving controller of a reality that is patently hateful and uncontrolled. How can they be sane? "God *wanted* little Timmy to be hit by the bus." "Almost all the people who died in the Holocaust are burning in Hell right alongside Hitler, but that's because God loves them!" "The reason God lets schoolchildren shoot each other is because the Supreme Court banned prayer in schools!" These are not the thoughts of sane people. Their insanity may not keep them from living otherwise harmless lives, but let us call it what it is. Trying to reconcile the reality in which we live with the idea there is anyone in charge (rather, anyone *benevolent* in charge) is madness. There is no other term for it.
Random tragedy is bad enough, but to believe that there is someone who could have done something about it, at no cost to himself, yet deliberately chose not to -- that would make it intolerable. I could not live in such a universe and retain my sanity. To the limited extent I am capable of pity (which is by no means the same thing as compassion) I pity the Believers. They trudge through life holding blindfolds to their eyes, and, when disaster causes them to stumble and drop the cloth, to see the world as it truly is, they scramble through the mud to find it, desperate that the vision of reality be blocked again. They cry and whine and fret and moan and scream endless "Why?"s at the sky, knowing they won't get an answer but believing they should.Me, I accept that life sucks, and do what I can to make it suck less, for myself and my friends. I do not offer duck-billed platitudes and warmfuzzy sentiments -- just my compassion, my time, and what material aid my meager resources will permit me to give. It may not be much, but it's *real* -- and that's what matters most.