It’s a great big universe
March 13, 2011 Leave a comment
יְהוָה, לַמַּבּוּל יָשָׁב; וַיֵּשֶׁב יְהוָה, מֶלֶךְ לְעוֹלָם.
The LORD sat enthroned during the great flood; the LORD is enthroned the Eternal King.
I was pleased to learn that my brother and sister-in-law, who are presently in Tokyo, are fine. However, the devastation that God wrought in an instant will be unwinding for a long time, and many lives will be shattered by this force utterly beyond human control or true comprehension.
There is a natural hubris in humanity – we like to tell ourselves that we understand the world in which we live, that the good and bad things happen to us for reasons that we can discern, and that the world is, for lack of a better word, fair. Events such as this are elemental reminders that the world is not fair: it rains on the just and the unjust alike, and while this may be the best of all possible worlds in the sight of God, it certainly isn’t the best of all possible worlds in any sort of human terms.
This is proof that life is in fact not fair.
To me, I find the reminders of the inherent unfairness of life comforting – imagine if you actually lived in a world where the bad things that happened to you could be unquestionably laid on your step as the by-products of your own actions? The implications play out across Ted Chiang’s novelette Hell is the Absence of God, and even there, the visceral cruelties of the human experience in a world populated by immanent higher beings are painful to see.
It’s a great big universe / and we’re all really puny
we’re just tiny little specks / about the size of Mickey Rooney;
it’s big and black and inky / and we are small and dinky
it’s a big universe and we’re not. – Yakko’s Universe, Animaniacs
God asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the world?” There is of course no possible answer, and like Job, we are left mute in the face of the actions of God.
יְהוָה נָתַן, וַיהוָה לָקָח; יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה, מְבֹרָךְ.
The LORD giveth, and the LORD taketh away; may the name of the LORD be praised.
– Job 1:21