Indonesia, Myanmar, China: tsunami, cyclone and earthquake. Tens of thousands of deaths in our human family, millions of homeless left to find another life – and no sense of meaning in it all. The loss is all of ours, even here on the other side of the world where hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes and wildfires may do less damage but leave us all looking for meaning as well.
I will not attempt to solve that forever-quandary here. Others, like Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his insightful and somewhat comforting “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People,” have done that far better than I am able to. But I would like to offer a perspective on the saga of creation that, for me at least, helps.
Ours is a universe, a world in process. Evolutionists, creationists and those believing in intelligent design have to admit there is nothing static in our still-expanding universe. The same is true of our world and our selves. Change is an absolute characteristic of creation, of being and becoming.
Ours is also a fragile world and existence. We live on a piece of cosmic dust where the tragedies of today are not new to our histories. Google “worst natural disasters” and read about another earthquake in China, in 1556, that killed 830,000; a cyclone in India in 1839 that took more than 300,000 lives; or another more recently, in 1970, in Bangladesh that claimed close to a million.
To try to be philosophical about such catastrophes is easy at a distance. But when one considers the fragilities of our cosmos and our individual worlds, distance ceases to be a factor. Ever since (and perhaps even before) Adam, we have been out of control of how the universe, including Earth, shapes itself.
That is why I have adopted a simplistic mantra for myself: “Trust the process.” There is little logic to such a thought but it helps me to admit to powers at the heart of the process larger than all of us. My mantra offers no answer to the meaning of such events. It holds, however, a potential for patience, tolerance and acceptance of all that happens wherever, whenever. It also reminds me that creation is a journey toward a better life.
My mantra comes with a whispered footnote that adds, “Nothing happens by chance.” Again, no logic, no answer. Questions, like catastrophes big and small, global and personal, keep us humble and learning and searching for meaning we may never find in this world of time and space. Whatever happens faces all of us with the responsibility to grow toward a better world, a better self.
So much for my mind. My heart is another matter. It is filled with prayers for those whose lives have been lost and for the survivors whose worlds have been forever changed. Still, the saga continues. We are all intimate parts of it.