By John Catrett
Our world is a strange place. Life is so unpredictable! The very fact that we exist is a miracle if one really thinks about it. The things that happen to us, these impressive – odd – monumental things, can be quite bizarre and interesting as well. We try and try to understand, but their meaning often eludes us. We fight hard against emptiness, filling our lives with anything and everything that appears to have substance. We move forward, groping in the dark, putting one foot in front of the other. Life passes us by in mundane spurts with the odd high point here or the peculiar low point there. Sometimes it is ‘exciting’ while often it can be excruciating. Our lives race by with each passing breath, and instead of counting the seconds, we count breaths. Time may be eternal and as such it really cannot be measured, but the breath of life is finite. The moment we are born we are one breath closer to the grave. Our book of life starts with our first breath and ends with the exhaling of our last breath. Then our legacy will be lived out in the chapters of the lives of others that we have touched. This life that we breathe could be well defined with five simple words. These words are: Who, what, where, when and why. All that can be known falls within the parameters of these words. When something monumental happens, death or birth, suicide or a great victory it is easy to answer all these questions, save one. Let’s pick a specific example, the death of a loved one. It is easy to know who died. There is no confusion about that. Once there was a person, and then there is dust. The “who” is quite important to us. We love that individual because of who they were to us. Their personality and their unique attributes go to make up the “who” that died. If we think a bit further, the next question will be “what” – what happened to our loved one? What did they mean to us? What were they like as a person?What kind of death stole them from our lives? The list goes on and on. One can come to terms with the what. It may be painful, but at least we can know, though we may not understand. The next question is “where”. Where did they die? Where have they gone? Where will we go now that we are without this cherished individual? Ask any mother of a missing child what plays on her mind as she hopes and prays for a happy and healthy return and the where question will come to the forefront quickly. The mother wants to know where her child is. She would give anything to know. Even if the child is dead, the mother still wants to know where the body is. Police spend much of their time trying to answer the where question. They understand the closure that can come when that “where” question is definitively put to bed. The next question is “when”. When we lose a loved one, the when is usually self-evident. The time of death is recorded to the second. A doctor, a coroner, or possibly the person who finds the body pronounces it. The when may not seem as important as the other questions, but it is. It should be marked carefully. The end of a life deserves to be enshrined in a specific moment of time. Deaths, or a birth for that matter, are both important events. They need to be clearly marked and remembered as such. Now I get to the final question. Why? This one’s a back-breaker. At this point, things get infinitely more complicated. Asking why brings one into contact with a whole set of sub-questions and difficulties. One may ask why their loved one passed away.mThere may be a simple answer in the physical sense. Maybe the person smoked all their life, and it finally caught up with them. Maybe the person just happened to be crossing the street at the wrong time. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. The truth is we can never know the ultimate why. It is a question that we are not meant to even ask. It will just tie us up and leave us frustrated or confused. The ultimate why of anything could be a scientific question, but even when we understand the background science to any given circumstance or event. Even when we get right down to the brass tacks of the event, we are still left with a question. Why? We can spend a lifetime in contemplation and study, only to be stymied in the end. We cannot fully know why. As we work our way back through all the causes and details and intricate nuances, we eventually come to the essence of the question and find that there really is no absolute answer. It turns out that the inquiry is not physical. It turns out that it is not scientific. It turns out that the demand of WHY is spiritual. When we face this fact, we come to a stark reality. We are not in control. We are helpless. We are finite and limited in our understanding of anything and everything. A realization of this fact can scare us. It may frustrate us, but there is a good outcome if we follow the question through to the dead end. We are forced to look for the One who has the answers we seek. This ultimate all knowing One can set us free. Instead of wondering “why”, we can know the One who has all the answers. Suddenly the why becomes much less significant? Suddenly the why becomes “Who”. There is real rest in this. The burden of a lifetime of why’s can be lifted from our shoulders. All the knots we tie in our efforts to understand can be untied. If we can accept this, we can move forward in life. Imagine our world without why – it is a much more peaceful world. When we face the fact that we can’t really know the why of anything, we find humility. Humility leads to peace, and this peace can facilitate healing and growth. Growth can lead to acceptance. Acceptance can soften large amounts of pain and suffering. When we ask why we doom ourselves to silence and despair. When we stop asking why and simply accept whatever comes our way, we find real freedom. The question of why becomes a question of who and in the who lies all the mystery, beauty, and joy that this world has to offer. Take it from me. Choosing to live in the world without why is a much better world. If we refuse to accept and continue to ask why, insanity awaits. If we accept and let go of our desire to know, peace and tranquility are close at hand. Wasted energy can be put to good use. Anger can dissipate. Fear can be overcome and replaced with “peace that surpasses all understanding”. Shalom!