All of us, at some time, have to face the ‘big question’ — is there more to life than what we see, hear and know about – work, pleasure and then death to dust!? Is life just work and pain, pleasure and fun; only eating and sleeping – then nothing at the end when we return to the earth that made us…!?
I faced this question quite early, about fourteen years of age — but ‘felt’ I knew enough to decide, how there was more to life than meets the eye, so much more. Many people face this question much later; after a personal tragedy, an upheaval in life, some serious injustice or gross unfairness which substantially impacts their life or those they care about…
I know those who decided the big question against the idea of life after death, God and so on – based mostly upon ‘human’ rationale with a bit of cynicism thrown in, a bit of laziness and apathy. Then, of course, they would be quite angry to hear this question again, or hear something different from friends and family. They have decided and naturally do not want to hear any more about it. If you made this kind of decision, it would be annoying to keep encountering things about God and Heaven, unexpectedly. Narcism begins to shut things out. Non-believers will likely become cranky later in life, hardened and grouchy; like old Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dickens story, ‘bah humbug’.
If you made a decision, in favour, early in life like I did, then it is easier; because the big question does not offend when it is met again and again. Rather it becomes an opportunity to re-evaluate things, to reconsider your position; after more life experience, more education and so on. If you failed to decide on this question, over the years, vacillated for whatever reason; then it will also be irritating, irksome, to keep stumbling upon it in everyday life – when a loved one dies, there’s a tragedy, poverty and war; or surprising kindness from others, a second chance, healing and happiness. It is quite embarrassing to be shown wanting, to be lagging behind, out-of-step with things; when a sudden calamity arises or when you can’t respond to things as you’d like to, even small things like manners.
I have a pal who often talks on the telephone and we usually start with small personal things from the week, the latest news/gossip and politics/sports. I often notice by the end, if we talk long enough, we finally get to religion and then the ‘big question’. This question can create a major dividing line between people, between many things – because it produces two different slants for all human endeavours; sometimes in serious opposition, sometimes simply to alienate people from each other.
The human mind tends to follow precedent and likes to entrench opinions; making a decision or a choice is taking a new direction; which may be difficult to reverse, even if a person is confronted with new evidence or new arguments. On the contrary, deciding for God et al, opens-up the discussion, opportunities and attitudes – because this choice entails more questions. To keep an open mind is the healthy option. ‘Yes’ is normally the better option than ‘no’ in so many ways.
‘Why does God allow war and suffering’, a question I often hear — is like asking if God is everywhere, then he’s under my hand on the table (gottcha)! A lot of questions like this are fruitless, not useful – and a good mechanic must always use the correct tools. Literal questions include stupidity along with intelligence, because language encompasses of lot of possibilities. We must always seek the right questions and the ‘big question’ is the first important one for all us of and it never really goes away.
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