When someone dies there are a lot of things to wonder about. Where did they go? Were they happy when they died? Did I adequately show them how much I loved them? Will we ever meet again?…etc….etc. But the most nagging of those wonders is the wonderful Why?
It’s probably true that there aren’t answers to why. I mean there certainly is a biological answer, in regards to my father, ALS progressed which caused his muscles and organs to degenerate leading to his inability to breathe at which point and he died (it wasn’t really that simple but you get the idea). But that’s not what I mean when I ask why? I am, essentially, appealing to God. I am searching for a reason, a motive or some type of justification.
I don’t practice or follow a religion, mostly out of ignorance not principled disagreement. But I think it is safe to say that most existential questions I pose are, although I really don’t like admitting it, aimed at an omnipotent being. A Creator. Which in the very Judeo-Christian sense would be God. I find this sort if fascinating because no one in my house ever prayed, we never said grace, I attended secular schools and yet I still appeal to God as if I believed.
I think by asking those existential questions I acknowledge that I find some desire in the narrative, of an omnipotent creator, to be true. Ideologically I don’t agree with it, largely because of my upbringing I suspect. But in so-called dire situations I appeal to that narrative, even though I don’t believe in it.
Now, I don’t think this means I believe in God, I think it is more representative of my want to believe that there is order in the world and in my life. I want there to be some way I can influence outcomes. I want to be able to appeal to a Creator for things in order to change their outcome. I want to know why my dad died, and most of all I want there to be a why, I want a reason, even though I don’t believe one exists.
Where does that leave me? It is sort of an awkward place to be emotionally to want something I don’t believe in. Wanting an explanation seems fairly normal, the seemingly quintessential human desire for certainty. But, certainty is always disappointing in some way. It never feels gratifying to “know” it’s just something that I desire because I don’t have it and “just knowing” would provide some relief, I tell myself. But in this case I don’t know what I would do if I knew why he died. Knowing this why, which in my mind is impossible, would not change his death. He would still have died.
I guess what I’m trying to understand for myself is why I am so infatuated with wanting to know why he died. I think it is totally normal thing to want to know but it is curious if knowing wouldn’t really change how I feel.
I think the God narrative may come back into play here. I think I have been taught, by who I haven’t the faintest clue, that there is a why. I think it may very well be a human inclination to believe in certainty and control. To believe that the world is understandable, if we can only break it down into its smallest pieces and understand it fundamentally it will make sense.
Although inclined to believe, I don’t. I believe in the ingenuity of humans, our ability to search, study, uncover and discover all that we have the ability to do so. There are some things that cannot really be discovered though. I, personally, believe that all meaning in the world is human prescribed. Meaning that when I go searching for the reason(s) why I am searching for something that we, or I, have created. Assigning a meaning to death is essentially like asking humans (not that any other being would be better fit to respond) to provide their own understanding of death and offer it up as fact or Truth.
I know I am wading a bit deep into my own personal philosophies here but if they don’t resonate with you I hope you at least find them entertaining.
To recap: I don’t believe there is a real or True meaning for why people die, even though I want to. Additionally, I think that all meaning whether it is about death, cuteness of puppies, stepping in the cracks in sidewalks or the arrangement of stars is comes from humans. Now let me be very clear here. My stating this does not mean that because I think meaning comes from humans that is it worth any less or is any less valid. Anything I believe in is in turn my reality and I believe the same applies to other people. Returning to my feelings about God as a relevant example. I do not believe in God, which I claim as my reality, a Godless one. But you may believe in God or gods or other spiritual beings and those are your realities that you believe in. You may, in fact, believe that your reality is True for everyone, this is where you and I differ. I claim my own reality and believe your reality is true for you. I believe you believe in God, but I don’t think your reality, mine or anyone else’s is True or valid for everyone.
In a very very round about way I’m trying to realize that what I’m searching for, why my dad died, that meaning I control. I get to prescribe that meaning to death and so searching for it seems rather silly.
Lastly to anyone who counts the number of times I wrote the words believe or reality I’ll give you a cookie.