Sense of Wonder

When you observe this landscape, what does it emerge in you? Does it give you a sense of beauty, littleness, peace, grandeur, pride? What do the surrounding objects awaken in you? When you raise your eyes up, does the firmament make you feel hope-filled? Hopeless? Loved? Does the silence, the infinity, the depth of the firmament frighten you? Does the space swallow you up as if you were nothing? Does the bridge tell you anything about life? When you look into the deep, does it conduct you anywhere? Where is the water canal going? Can it be a metaphor for where all of us are heading to in life? How do all the things in the landscape get to be?

I know one thing about this landscape— it cannot leave you indifferent. Don’t let your temperament gets in the way. What you should not miss or what you should reflect on is how these things (the water, the sky, the trees…) were created and how there are coalesced to have you think like that. Lose yourself in this so you can transcend the transcendent.

However, if it happens that you are left with a cold in your heart after reflecting on this, don’t make a drama out of it. Pascal saw it coming when he says in Pensees, “For after all what is man in nature? He is a nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed”. Things are tough; we are surrounded by all kind of distractions hampering us from seeing the blissful quietude craving to be poured on us. Now you know it is awaiting you whenever you call upon it. That is a step in the right direction, wouldn’t you say? Don’t stop looking because once you find it, you lose all your miseries.

Advertisements

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Leibniz, in his metaphysical work The Monadology, argues that this world is the most perfect of all the possible worlds. God being perfect, loving and all-knowing could not have given to us a bad world had there been any better than this one as he understands it. The classic question arising from this argument is why is there so much evil in this world if it was chosen by God? Well, simple answer, the other ones are worse than this one. So there would even be more evil had we had a different one.  That is a very depressing answer because many of us believe that the God we know and obey must be able to do better than this, so why this evil one? It seems, from this view, that God did not create the world. He only had to choose the best of many worlds. People like me believe that though the big bang happened, God was its author, and so He had control over what emerges from it. If He only had to choose from many worlds created from the big bang, it would seem that He did not monitor the big bang as we understand it.

It seems to me that that question, though it has taken many different forms over the centuries, has been a concern for many generations before us. We see that St Augustine, who was very well versed in philosophy before converted to Christianity, had tried to provide an answer to this classic question. For him, a good God could not possibly create evil. Evil could not be if good is not. “All things are good because their maker is supremely good”, he says. But in these things goodness can be increased or decreased. As he sees it, all things were created good, but when its good decreases, we call it evil. So evil is a diminution of good. Evil is corruption of the good. Though things are created good, they can be contaminated by evil/corruption. Since all things are created good, they can never be totally deprived of goodness. So no matter how evil a thing is, it has some good in it. Evil would be unable to exist if there were no good for it to exist in. I know that answer may make you edgy, but it’s a very apologetic answer that may not satisfy objections such as by what mean did the first evil/corruption enter the world since everything was originally good? Why did God, the author of all, allow the good to dwindle and so become evil? These are concerns that don’t make us comfortable with St Augustine’s very insightful answer. Keep reading!

Another way that question surfaces is through reflection from the creation story. If God is the creator of all things, God must be the author of evil. If God is not its author, where does it come from? If God is a loving, merciful God, why in the world does He need to allow or create so much evil? The way I see it is that God is not responsible for the evil in the world; we are. It’s only because we misuse our free-will that evil exists in the world. Our free-will is given so we can choose the good, but we don’t always do so. When we don’t, it has consequences. All of us have at some point misused our free-will, so we all deserve what happens to us. Does the evil that happens to us proportionate to what we do? You answer that. Is evil a consequence of sin, or does it occur even when we don’t sin? Who can say he does not sin?

The third way that question emerges is why do bad things happen to good people? The most classic and puzzling writing about this question is the book of Job. May that book be our guide in our endeavor to answer that question.

The book of Job seems to provide the most straightforward answer to the problem of evil, and why bad things happen to good people. According to the book of Job (one of the books in the Bible), there are things that transcends our understanding. So we don’t know why bad things happen to good people. Though Job deemed himself good, God actually boasts of Job’s goodness, evil almost destroys him. Job, before then, never expected evil to happen to him since he served God so well. God only allows evil to happen to Job to teach (him) a lesson. Who knows whether each one of us must not learn that lesson about life? Maybe through experiencing suffering ourselves or seeing someone suffers. Who says that suffering is not part of life’s cycle? Job’s friends attempted to convince him that he must not be as good as he thought he was. He rightly rejected that. Job maintains his integrity and uprightness despite what his friends say. He believes that his suffering is not on par with his sins. He refrains from cursing God, though his wife suggested it. Finally, God intervenes and condemns Job’s friends for acting as if they understand the way of God. He makes Job understands that there are mysteries surpassing man’s knowledge. Job repents for having spoken too arrogantly.

There is such a thing as mystery. We don’t know why bad things happen to good people. It is so easy for you and I to determine whether someone is good or bad. A kind, generous, loving, peaceful person who loves God and neighbor is undoubtedly a good person. Children are undoubtedly good people. We cannot access someone’s conscious; we only judge from appearances, and so make assumptions. We assume a lot when we ask why bad things happen to good people. First, we assume as if we can really say who’s good or bad. Does not good or bad in this case depend solely on our own standard? Such assumptions kick God’s standard, whom we cannot thoroughly know, out of the equation. Secondly, we act as if we understand God’s way. He says in Isaiah 55, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts”. Thirdly, we assume that suffering is bad. Well, bad for us I know. What about God? Did Jesus not conquer the world through the most humiliating suffering? So we should stop blaming God for the way things are. It is best to say that they are that way for a good cause.

Now it is understandable these kinds of questions are asked. We are, after all, weak human beings unable to understand our own self. So it is no surprise we cannot crack open the mysteries of God. Shall we say then evil happen or sufferings are the cause of our own condition, or our innocent loved ones suffer because  of our own wretchedness?

From a purely secular viewpoint, suffering is a curse hampering us from living life to the full. However, only when looked at from a religious’ perspective does it make sense. Only when we add God in the picture is suffering bearable. Only then is there a reason to suffer. Without the cross our suffering would be meaningless. There would be no reason to endure it. It is no surprise the unbeliever committed suicide as soon as the doctor says his illness is incurable. The believer, though he may not know the reason for his particular suffering, knows it is a good one and can make use of his suffering and be transformed by prayer. More importantly, the God the sufferer is calling upon is not a distant God who does not know what suffering entails. He went through it himself and so is capable of helping those who are undergoing similar things.

We, the Truly Free People

 “You will not die,” said the serpent to our mother, “God knows that when you eat of the fruit of the tree, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Him, knowing good and evil”. But when she ate, her eyes were opened, and it’s borne in upon her that she was naked. So she hid herself for she was ashamed.

GAO XINGJIAN, the 1997 Nobel Prize winner in literature, says in his playwright Nocturnal Wanderer: “walk where your heart leads you, there are no restrictions and no burdens”. In other words, the author is urging us to fly like a butterfly where the air is our only barrier. He is fostering freedom. Oh freedom— being able to do or not to do things in accordance with our own will. Being able to live in a land where we act as we see fit. That is most people’s concept of freedom nowadays. Is this true freedom? Should not our choice lead us to better condition? Should we not be better off after we freely make a choice? I would like to think of freedom as having the power to make one better off right away in the long run. At least that’s how I conceive choice. I doubt I make foes through my conception.

Freedom produces good results only when it acts within the boundaries set for it. True freedom, from my conception, is not the absence of restraint. True freedom is achievable only when we move within the limits set for us. For example, people are free to use their cars on the roads only if they obey the Highway Code; if not, soon a hospital’s room would be the drivers’ bedroom. If a baker refuses to follow the laws of bakery, he would never succeed a making the delicious cake he saw in the book. If a student refuses to follow his/her professors’ direction, he/she goes without a diploma, and so without a decent job in today’s society.

True freedom occurs under application of the rules, not under breaking. Adam and eve were given the freedom to do whatever they wanted but one. Their failure to obey it results in our having to toil under frustration for our daily bread. A person’s mistakes to follow his boss’s rules cost him/her his job.

So there may be restrictions and even burdens, but their fruits do not lead us to a hospital bed, without a job, a delicious chocolate cake, or a diploma.

In conclusion, what is true about true freedom is always true about the inner life. We are not free disobeying the law and plan that God has in store for us. Disobeying the law of God only degenerates and makes us less human. We are fully human when living in communion with God. We are made us in a certain way; we are free only when acting the way God wants us to act; any other way results in harming ourselves. Freedom is the ability to always choose the good/right even when it seems to hurt prima facie.

What Is The Point?

Have you ever asked yourself what the point of life is? Wouldn’t that be wonderful if we know why man was created? What would occur if we find the answer to this question? Would that make a difference? Would that drastically change our lifestyle?

Though many  answers have been provided to this question, we still wonder why we are here. Is it because we feel the answers don’t speak to us personally? Is it because by nature man is never satiated, and so he is always looking?

Many great thinkers who have dedicated their life to philosophy may have something to say about this question, but it all depends on how commensurable their answers are that open the way for denial.

If Plato got cornered to answer that question, he would say, after begging the question, that the point of life or the reason why man is created is to philosophize. One philosophizes by seeking wisdom (the truth and the good), and doing and holding on to the right thing regardless of the course. He went so far as to say that an unexamined life is not worth living. Also, know that the most known philosophers of the Socratic era is in line, though there may be some small differences, with Plato’s view of life. Aristotle, the stoics, or any rationalists for that matter would see eye to eye with him.  

The Epicureans, for example, would say that the point of life is to abstain oneself from pain and so to seek pleasure for that is the aim or end of all of us. Therefore, we should dedicate our whole life seeking what we were created for— a life of pleasure, which is absence of pain. The stoics would say that we cannot find ourselves in anything other than in self-control.

A rather more modern answer to this question is furnished by the enlightenment philosophers. For them, the point of life, the reason why man is created is to build an ordered, structured society where humanity lives in harmony with each other. All must have the freedom to exercise their inalienable rights originated from God. Man must do the best he can to keep his rights intact.

The Christian’s answer is nothing that we have heard before. The meaning of life is to find contentment—making the best out of God’s gift to us. That means living in pure love, and pure truth. Trust God. That signifies making God the center of our thoughts, actions, and lives. They are found in denying oneself to live for God. That answer seems to transcend Plato’s; one needs not examine his life philosophically in order to put God as the flambeau of his life. If it is in pain that God can be glorified, the Christian would gladly embrace it for in doing so he is living in perfect communion with God. Communion with God is everything; life is insignificant without God in it. Even if we have all, without God we have nothing. In fact, an un-Godly life is not worth living. While working to form a more just society is very important, doing so does not guarantee heaven.

Heaven is the very essence of the Christian’s answer. The meaning of life is to live for heaven, our true home and the zenith of our pilgrimage; that is what man is created for. Our life here on earth is a passing shadow, a journey, a bridge toward our true purpose in life.  If we fail that, we fail life. Who would want to overlook endless happiness? Well, now you know why you are here; what are you going to do about it? Delay it? That would be ok if you knew how long the journey would last. Reject it? I hope you understand what you are rejecting as well as you understand what I am urging you to embrace. Do nothing? Well, doing nothing means doing something. Wait! You are trapped! You have a choice to make my friend!

Have you ever asked yourself what the point of life is? Would not that be wonderful if we know why man was created? What would occur if we find the answer to this question? Could that make a difference? Would that drastically change our lifestyle?

Though many have answers have been provided to this question, we still wonder why we are here. Is it because we feel the answers don’t speak to us personally? Is it because by nature man is never satiated, and so he is always looking?

Many great thinkers who have dedicated their life to philosophy may have something to say about this question, but it all depends on how commensurable their answers are that open the way for denial.

If Plato got cornered to answer that question, he would say, after begging the question, that the point of life or the reason why man is created is to philosophize. One philosophizes by seeking wisdom (the truth and the good), and doing and holding on to the right thing regardless of the course. He went so far as to say that an unexamined life is not worth living. Also, know that the most known philosophers of the Socratic era is in line, though there may be some small differences, with Plato’s view of life. Aristotle, the stoics, or any rationalists for that matter would see eye to eye with him.  

The Epicureans, for example, would say that the point of life is to abstain oneself from pain and so to seek pleasure for that is the aim or end of all of us. Therefore, we should dedicate our whole life seeking what we were created for— a life of pleasure, which is absence of pain. The stoics would say that we cannot find ourselves in anything other than in self-control.

A rather more modern answer to this question is furnished by the enlightenment philosophers. For them, the point of life, the reason why man is created is to build an ordered, structured society where humanity lives in harmony with each other. All must have the freedom to exercise their inalienable rights originated from God. Man must do the best he can to keep his rights intact.

The Christian’s answer is nothing that we have heard before. The meaning of life is to find contentment—making the best out of God’s gift to us. That means living in pure love, and pure truth. Trust God. That signifies making God the center of our thoughts, actions, and lives. They are found in denying oneself to live for God. That answer seems to transcend Plato’s; one needs not examine his life philosophically in order to put God as the flambeau of his life. If it is in pain that God can be glorified, the Christian would gladly embrace it for in doing so he is living in perfect communion with God. Communion with God is everything; life is insignificant without God in it. Even if we have all, without God we have nothing. In fact, an un-Godly life is not worth living. While working to form a more just society is very important, doing so does not guarantee heaven.

Heaven is the very essence of the Christian’s answer. The meaning of life is to live for heaven, our true home and the zenith of our pilgrimage; that is what man is created for. Our life here on earth is a passing shadow, a journey, a bridge toward our true purpose in life.  If we fail that, we fail life. Who would want to overlook endless happiness? Well, now you know why you are here; what are you going to do about it? Delay it? That would be ok if you knew how long the journey would last. Reject it? I hope you understand what you are rejecting as well as you understand what I am urging you to embrace. Do nothing? Well, doing nothing means doing something. Wait! You are trapped! You have a choice to make my friend!