Dear Old Anima readers:
I’ve experienced a lot of starts and stops when trying to write this Old Anima letter because I can’t get a handle on this helpless feeling we are all dealing with in relation to Ukraine. I think many of us are asking ourselves as average citizens if there’s anything we can do to help the Ukrainians defeat Putin other than not complain about higher gas prices.
Of course, we can always look around our communities and become involved in volunteer efforts that are typically packaging goods to be shipped off to Ukraine. I haven’t done that myself. We can also make some kind of a donation. I have done a modest one to UNICEF, for example. Other than these examples and perhaps praying a lot if you have a propensity for that, I’m not seeing much else that could possibly make any kind of significant difference.
And then there’s the nuclear annihilation doomsday fear. Again, a helpless situation if in fact the horror of horror happens. Human history is pretty much one surprise event after another! We can only hope that kind of surprise will not occur – but sometimes I think it will inevitably happen some day unless we somehow completely get rid of nuclear weapons all together, which in my mind will only come to fruition after we have annihilated 75% of the planet’s population.
I keep thinking of my parents who experienced WWII. My father was a 20-year-old purple heart recipient who was wounded at Iwo Jima. They experienced a fear of annihilation and of their military conscripted loved ones not returning home – a war that lasted six years, sparked by the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland until the Allies defeated Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945. Are we seeing the beginning of a 21st century repeat by simply replacing the words Nazi with Putin and Poland with Ukraine? The US formally entered World War II on December 11, 1941, after Pearl Harbor and two years after Poland was invaded, when Germany declared war on the United States. Two years from now (or earlier) will we be entering World War III after Russia declares war on us or vice versa? This scenario seems to be unthinkable and even impossible – but it’s unfortunately not.
All this uncertainty leads to high levels of anxiety for people everywhere – but imagine yourself sitting in a bunker after your house has been bombed to smithereens, or trying to figure out how to relocate your family to another country with only the clothes on their backs and a couple of suitcases in tow. Now that’s anxiety that makes our own pale greatly in comparison. And this cretin Putin – you can see it in his eyes and demeanor – he does not care. He is an inhumane sack of shit without a conscious bone in his body. More than half of the world now hates his guts. But again we can rely only on hope and faith that he pays his karmic debt.
All I’m saying here is pretty inevitable, right? We all know these things but can’t do anything substantial about them. It becomes a test of our faith in the common good. I wrote a relatively long essay on this topic some time ago, titled “Faith & Tragedy.”
One part of that essay seems appropriate to post here:
God’s Real Role
Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote in his famous book
“When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” that tragedies are “not the will of God.” Tragedies “represent that aspect of reality which stands independent of His will, and which angers and saddens God even as it angers and saddens us.”
Kushner also noted that if we can “bring ourselves to acknowledge that there are some things God does not control, many good things become possible. We will be able to turn to God for things He can do to help us, instead of holding on to unrealistic expectations of Him which will never come about.” Kushner is basically saying that believing in a complete randomness, uncontrollable by an omnipotent force, and the evil of chaotic tragedy that comes with that does not necessarily mean we are Atheists. It’s not God’s responsibility to control things; it is God’s image in us as humans that helps us when we encounter tragedy.
Unfortunately, I cannot fully accept Kushner’s theory.
There’s a part of me that cannot see the logic of a God capable of creating a complex universe is at the same time incapable of stopping indiscriminate tragedy. I’m also unable to accept that justice does not exist – that enormous evil, such as genocide and unnecessary wars that kill innocent people, go unanswered – that there’s no karma. In other words, I don’t believe that Hitler dies and that’s it – that his soul does not have to account for the millions of people he was responsible for killing. If we all believed that there was no justice for such horrible events, the world would be an increasingly horrible place that never gets any better.
If I’m not mistaken, I think Kushner was agnostic about the existence of an afterlife. Could he be saying that our free wills, or our souls, if you will, give us strength to overcome adversities and the propensity to do good and overcome evil? However, whether or not there’s an afterlife in which we must answer for the paths we have chosen while we lived is an unanswerable question. Or, does evil dwell in the unknowable afterlife as well?
I can also believe that some force beyond our imagination created a Big Bang that was the beginning of our seemingly random and chaotic universe that hurls us through space to some unknowable end. While we traverse the planet for who knows how long, we must simply make the best of it and try to help out and empathize with those less fortunate so we can live harmoniously – no religious dogma or blind faith needed. Put your hope and faith in the common good souls over any kind of catastrophic event.