Good. Bad. Indifferent.

park sunset1I will tell you that this post could be a ramble.  It addresses a topic that’s been rattling around in my head for months and unless I write it out, it won’t stop.  It might not anyway.  I am fortunate to be part of several men’s meeting where guys talk about life and how they live it in a much more intimate way than I have ever known before.  Sometimes, I get to see our similarities, how we all do our best to deal what life deals us and how we can learn from each other’s struggles.   Other times, I get to see differences in the way we view the world … and the way we deal with it.  In those instances, it would be nice if I could just say to myself, This is what I do … that’s what they do.  But sometimes, their way looks easier if I could only mange to follow suit and I need to articulate my beliefs … to myself.

Perhaps the best example is the notion that nothing that happens in life is inherently Good or Bad.  One flavor of this notion was articulated by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”   I guess I’m supposed to think of everything as Indifferent.   Even if I could do that, isn’t the price discounting life’s gifts in the interest of dealing with it’s difficulties?  I have a good friend who likes to counter life’s problems with the questions, Isn’t that interesting?  I wonder what will happen next?  He’s fond of talking about things that are good appearing bad and suggests that there is good in everything, even if he can’t see it.  Another friend says, I just do the best I can and turn it over to God … I’m not into outcomes or, more simply, God’s in charge.  I do try to apply this approach to the lesser bumps in life’s road.  I’ve had situations that changed completely once I changed my attitude and others that were awful for a while until something really good emerged.   But I also agree with another friend who says, If you can dismiss problems with ‘Isn’t that interesting,’ your life is pretty good.  In my 72 years, I’ve watched friends and family die of awful illnesses that struck out of nowhere with frightening speed.   I’ve lost three men to suicide and watched good people struggle with that ravages of advancing age.  I’ve felt my own body aging … physical or mental disabilities no longer seem light years away.  I’ve watched terrible crimes on TV, often in the name of God.  There is no way I can describe these tragedies as indifferent, interesting, or even good appearing bad.

This brings us to a philosophical fork in the road.  Down one road lie the spiritual questions as to the nature of a God who would allow terrible things to happen to his supposedly crowning creations.   The short version of the discussion is:  God can’t be good and omnipotent.  If he’s omnipotent, He can’t be good because He lets tragedies happen.  If He’s good, he can’t be be omnipotent because He could stop the tragedies but won’t.”  The latter is what Harold Kushner concluded in When Bad Things Happen to Good People.  The other fork in the road concerns how dealing with life’s inexplicable trials without plunging into despair.   We’ll take this fork for now  and leave God for another day.   Even though I believe there are Bad … and even Evil … events in this life, I believe that we can create Good … in fact, it is our responsibility to create Good … out of everything that happens.  The death of a friend may be the impetus to appreciate those around me, or to live life more joyously, conscious that life can, as Stephen King likes to say, turn on a dime.   The suicide of a friend has opened my eyes … and that of my men’s fellowship … to the importance of friends with whom we can share our struggles.   From perhaps the most tragic event of our time, the Holocaust, came the works of Viktor Frankl and Elie Weisel.  Hopefully some of the tragedies in our streets this week will slow the polarization sweeping our country and help us remember that All Lives Matter, that hate kills regardless of race, color or creed.   I can only hope.

That seems to work for me most of the time, so I’m sticking with it.   What do you think?

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5 Comments on “Good. Bad. Indifferent.”

  1. Very well articulated and I think many are thinking some of those same thoughts.

  2. Christine Says:

    I think that if all that was to lead up to your “All Lives Matter” conclusion, that you obviously do not understand the BLM movement.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I welcome your comments but if you reached that conclusion after reading my post, I’d suggest you “obviously” didn’t understand the post … or at least pay attention to what I said. Saying All Lives Matter does not, by the way mean I don’t “understand” or believe that black lives matter.

  3. Barry Says:

    Great post. I know it has me thinking. As you say, leaving the God piece aside … all we can control is our reaction to bad things. We can get sucked in and try to use those events as a rationalization for more bad things, or we can try to improve the world — a tiny bit at a time. I like to think most of us do the latter.

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