Thursday, April 17, 2003

I was just thinking about how strange it is that so much of my life has been, and will be, dictated by decimal points. Perhaps even my own salvation, in the end. Damned Euclid rules the world.

I started off the night depressed. I was feeling sad over my own failure and my own stupidity and my own damnable sadness. It seems stupid to be utterly knotted up in anxiousness and regret when your life is going as well as mine. But: "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness." - Proverbs 14:13.

And now I’m somehow angry. I’m feeling cheated. My failures, my idiotic need to justify my failures to myself and others, my own inability to be satisfied with those justifications, are certainly my responsibility. I can’t blame anyone else for them. But somehow this world seems damned unfair.

I’ve been thinking all day about two bits of literature. The first was something I read in Exodus for my Bible as Literature class. It’s the first part of Moses’ song after the people have escaped from Egypt. “The Lord is a man of war. The Lord is his name.” The second is something from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. It’s from the section which directly precedes the Great Inquisitor, where Alyosha and Ivan are hashing out their beliefs. Ivan asks Alyosha, “Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature - that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance - and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?”

Alyosha answers that he would not. And I can muster no other answer. Tonight I’m angry at the cosmos though I realize that it’s utterly ridiculous to scream at the sky. Who the hell am I to judge God? Who am I to demand answers and accountability? “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” after all. But I’m angry because the world is unfair. It doesn’t take a particularly apt scholar of human society to see that some people are simply stomped on. Some innocent children are beaten, and starved, and abused. Some innocent children have their arms blown off because they were unfortunate enough to be born into a country where having your arms blown off is superior to starving to death because your president is an evil dictator.

I can’t complain so much about my own life. I know that my life is good. I’m only vaguely aware, most likely, of just how wonderful my life has really been, comparatively, in a world where most people don’t even live in democratic societies. And yet I do complain about my own life. And tonight it seems justified. I won’t carry on about the children with no arms; what have I done, myself, to alleviate their suffering? But I know it’s my own depravity which keeps me from giving up everything I have to help others. I recognize that it’s a tremendous evil on my part that I don’t really love my neighbor. I realize that I’m in love with own suffering; that I have secret pleasure in my own martyrdom. I can see the nastiness of my sin. But that’s exactly what makes me so angry.

Why did God make human beings? To love us? What sort of love could produce a world such as this? What sort of love forced Adam and Eve out of the Garden? What sort of love led God to destroy all of Noah’s generation; to allow Noah to curse his grandson Canaan for his own sin? What sort of love loved Jacob and not Esau? What sort of love wiped out the firstborn of Egypt and drowned the Pharaoh’s army in the sea? What sort of love waxed hot against the children of Israel when they sinned by bowing down to the Golden Calf, ending in the death of 3000 men?

I don’t understand God. My heart is with Cain when God favors his brother Abel; with Ishmael when God favors his brother Isaac; with Esau when he is twice tricked by his brother Jacob, whom God simply loves better; with the ill-favored sons of Jacob, who are ignored because of their beautiful brother Joseph. Why should God favor sinners like David? Why should a murderer like Moses be the greatest Prophet of the Old Testament? Why should I worship a God who would force Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac - even if he stayed his hand at the very end?

When Alyosha answers that he would not consent to create such a world as this, his eyes flash and he answers Ivan: “You said just now, is there a being in the whole world who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? But there is a Being and He can forgive everything, all and for all, because He gave His innocent blood for all and everything. You have forgotten Him, and on Him is built the edifice, and its to Him they cry aloud, ‘Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed!’”

Christ is the answer to my accusations of iniquity. How can I even whine that there is injustice in the world if there is no God? What is justice if there is no one Just? And how can I cringe at the death of that one, suffering, innocent and unavenged creature who was tortured so I could see happiness, if I do not love Christ? Christ, uniquely, assented to His own plan. I do not understand it. I cannot understand it. And from the most inner regions of my being, I need to know!

When God afflicted Job - or I should say, allowed the affliction of Job - and Job cried out to God and demanded an answer for his suffering, God replies: “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.” I find it such an infuriating answer, and yet, when Job is confronted with it, he “repent[s] in dust and ashes.”

I find myself calmed by this point in the writing. I’ve been moving quite rapidly. I know my ideas are base and hardly pulled together. But I’m intrigued suddenly. Is the principle sin of man wanting too much knowledge? It’s why we were kicked out of the garden after all. And it’s why I suffer. Because I’m insufferably curious and need to know. And God keeps us from such knowledge, just as he kept poor Moses from the Land of Milk and Honey, because of our sin. Poetic justice.

I don’t want to be a blasphemer. I just want it all to make sense, and it doesn’t. Perhaps if I spent more time repenting in dust and ashes, I’d have a clearer picture. But then, in what sense would I be human? It’s an odd world, indeed, where one has to suppress ones humanity to become fully human. And yet it’s only the mystery of the faith that draws me.

I have massive homework piling up on me, and I’m supposed to be sleeping in fourteen minutes. First major slack of the quarter coming on. My resolution to try harder lasted a while, eh?