Sunday, April 18, 2010

Into the deep end.

I feel like after a certain point it’s a bit cliché to talk about life and death, but since it’s all around me right now, I feel validated. The thing that seems to give people the most trouble with life and death is the randomness; a 26 year old boy can die in his sleep in a controlled environment, while a 90 year old woman who drinks and smokes can still muster up the gumption to whack neighborhood kids in her yard with a stick. It’s random.

Apparently an obnoxious desire to over analyze things is intrinsic to grad students, because a couple of us polished of beers with a discussion of the reason humans evolved to have religion, and I always come back to the need for an explanation. In ancient times, people created a deity that would explain the incompressible forces of nature; the rising sun, the changing tides, drought and earth quakes were attached to unseen actors who could be influenced and, therefore, appeased. In modern times, we’ve abandoned the fickle agricultural gods of our ancestors for monotheism, seeking to explain just one major question, why do bad things happen? This obviously covers the whole range of life experience, including but not limited to those twin events that bookend every life.

People go to their god to ask when people are born different, born at the wrong time, or not born at all. Similarly, they go to their god when someone’s life ends. Why so young, why so soon, why so slow, why so suddenly? Why at all? And what is the complicated calculus in play when it’s decided who lives and who dies, who suffers and who simply drifts away.

Some take comfort in the idea that someone else’s plan is in effect, some larger plan, too big for us to perceive, but intricate enough to make perfect sense given enough perspective. Others, I think, enjoy having someone to blame endlessly, someone to curse until the pain subsides, someone who’ll never shout back. Many people find solace in the fairy tale of a magical place where everyone you love who is good and decent gets to go, where nothing’s bad and nothing hurts and we can all have a picnic when we get there. But even the people who wholeheartedly believe in this fairy land don’t seem to be in any rush to get there…

But I digress. Because those of us who find faith in the tangible have to find solace in the same. There are no happily ever after stories of living on clouds in white robes, so we have to counsel ourselves with other things. Beer is often helpful. So is talking. Whether you believe people got to a better place, back into the cycle of life, or just into the decaying end of the matter spectrum, we all believe the pain of this life is over. The only other thing we can hold on to is the same thing we always have to hold on to when ever thing get rough, the good times.

So I guess, in conclusion and in the wake of death and pain and life, here’s to the good times.

to my religious friends, please don't be mad at my playful characterization of different systems of belief. I'm an equal opportunity offender trying to figure out my own thing.

No comments: