I’ve heard often about the comfort of god and religion. That has always been something for other people, as I believe in no deities and belong to no religion. But the implications of that statement struck me recently.
If god(s) and religion provide comfort then those of us without them must also be without comfort.
This comfort is based on the idea that someone(s) is looking out for us and that no matter what tragedies or hardships occur they are not without purpose and, for the devout, an eventual reward. Surely, randomness, the concept that nothing or no one is in charge and that things just “happen”, must be frightening.
No. It’s not.
Somewhere far away from me, right this moment, a friend I have only known online, is dying of cancer. I have never met him in real life, and now I never will, but he is a member of a discussion group I once frequented and we spent as much time laughing, debating, and sharing life’s ups and downs as any in-the-flesh friend I know. He is a kind, intelligent, witty fellow who made the internet a welcoming place for a lot of folks. He has read both of my and Josh’s books but long before that he was one of my most avid cheerleaders. Writers need people like him. I need people like him.
Of all the people who populated that board over the years, all the trolls and assholes whose existence revolved around making others miserable, why did the disease hit him? Him? What purpose does that serve?
If I believed in an omnipotent being controlling our fate, I’d be so angry right now. Not just for my friend but for every man, woman, child, and for every living creature that has ever suffered. For every war and natural disaster. For every rape, torture, and murder. For every missed opportunity, for every heartache, for every dream unfulfilled. For every addiction, obsession, and affliction. For every bad thing that has touched life on this planet since the beginning of existence, I would be angry.
In randomness, I take comfort.
Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people. Sometimes trolls flourish while bright lights dim, flicker, and expire. It may not be fair but in a world of random “fair” is meaningless.
In a random world, I know that I must pounce on happiness, hold it down, feast on it for as long as I can. I know that anything can happen, at any time, to any person, even me. I alone am responsible for making the most of whatever time I have before my rented atoms return to the world. I take comfort in that. In a random world, I know friendship and love are the reward for all the other BS we slog through and they need to be appreciated in the here and now.
When I look up at the stars, I do not need to know some great being is looking back at me. It is enough that stars exist and that I have the privilege of seeing them.
I am sad for my friend. His life does not need a purpose or a grand plan for me to mourn its end. It is enough that he exists, that our lives intersected, that I had the privilege of knowing him, and that I am a better person because of it.