Wednesday, November 28, 2012



Somebody somewhere asked a question.  There is probably another somebody asking that very same question at this moment.  It is a question asked looking pleadingly into eyes just as lost as those of the asker, just as anguished and puzzled, confused and frightened.

Sometimes the question is asked to walls, floors or ceilings in dimly lit hospital rooms where the measure of a life hanging in the balance is marked by the cadence of the machinery of modern medicine.  The question has been asked angrily looking through tears into a starry night, or humbly in a chapel cast in shadows with the flickering flames of hundreds of votive candles arrayed at the base of statues of unfamiliar saints dancing on cold stone walls, empty wooden pews and what feels like an empty chamber mockingly devoid of any sign of Divinity. The acoustics of an empty place of worship are such that each stifled sob, each muttered prayer, each sniffle and swipe of a tissue to clear tears from the cheeks annoyingly echoes as if the grief that brought the asker to that place is inappropriate. 

It has been asked by a Mom sitting alone on the empty bed where her child once slept; slept before some demonic disease possessed her and took her away.  It has been asked by a Dad pacing in the harsh fluorescent light of an emergency waiting room as his wife fights for life just feet away.  It has been asked while gazing unseeingly at a gravestone marking the small plot of earth where a loved one was interred. 

It is a question as old as mankind, as primal; primitive even, as are the forces of nature that compel it.  It is question that has been asked of every deity, every god or source of worship by people of every race, creed, faith and belief.  It is a universal question but most sincerely asked solitarily. 

It is a question born in that ill-defined yet distinctly human organ where heart and soul share a blood supply; where the arteries coursing with raw, unbridled emotions have been oxygenated with the corpuscles of love so strong, so deep, so elemental that it threatens the life of the asker. 

It is an incongruously simple question, a succinct, almost too small a plea for as answer so large, so beyond reach, so elusive and cruelly unattainable.  It is that one word question that can be asked from the strain of heart clenching, soul wrenching bitterness and despair that is the sole accompanier of death.  It is, of course, “Why”?

*****     *****

This simple question is asked of relatives and friends; of Priests, Rabbis, Imams, Shamans, Pastors, Preachers, doctors, and Mullahs.  But the question being asked of Another, of someone or something that we cannot begin to approach directly in our unvarnished pain, anger and anguish.  The Christian is probably asking it of God or Jesus Christ.  The Jew is posing the question to Yahweh, Jehovah or He who is yet to come.  The Muslim asks Allah, Ahura Mazda or Allah Baha’i.  Hindus may ask Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva.  Others ask it of an Ultimate Reality or a Force, a Life Spirit, Prime Mover, Supreme Being, or Alpha and Omega.  Still there are those who don’t beg the question to a Deity just some ephemeral, ill-defined Higher Power.  The universality of humans innate need to believe in something “Other”, something “Greater”, something responsible for all that there is in the universe is either proof that our brains are merely hardwired for the “concept” of a God or that a Divine Entity does in fact exist.  Either way, we ask the “why?” because there HAS TO BE  a reason, right?  What sadistic cosmic thread could weave such a vicious trail through time and ultimately snag my child, my wife, my husband?   

Our need to know and understand all that transpires in the often jagged contours of our lives is more than a utilitarian artifact of possessing such a sophisticated brain.  Neurons, axons, neurochemicals, synaptic activity and Nano sparks of electricity have allowed us to conquer nature, understand the cosmos, develop civilizations, cultures, societies, art in all its creative forms and live longer than even those just two generations over our shoulder.  The mighty human brain has produced, inspired, made, manufactured, constructed, invented, cured and put us at the apparent apogee of life on Earth.  Yet, for all that, despite all we know and can do we remain insignificant and infantile in our pain and ignorance.

*****     *****

We can be humble in our pain, rendered every state from anger to puzzlement by our ignorance.  All we are left with in our darkest times is the question and, expecting an answer, a moment of clarity that strikes the Soul like a bullet made of the most brilliant diamond and, at some point, begrudgingly, defeated, or just bone weary,  we realize it is not to be. 

But there is an answer.  It is not the answer we seek, we need to make the wretchedly pointless somehow more acceptable but, it is an answer.  It comes from within the Articles of Faith.  Faith, that other mysterious phenomenon, that hybrid core between superstition and Belief the circuitry of which we seem to be born with.  But Faith is not just another defining attribute of the human brain; it is not just one more capacity of our large frontal lobes nor is it knowledge acquired as are the stale facts of history.  It transcends knowledge as it does doubt.  It provides solace and comfort while requiring the expenditure of what may be just vapors of fuel in the tanks of emotional reserve.  Faith.

Perhaps we’ll lose some here; maybe this is the juncture that separates some of us from others.  Just as it has been said that “There are no atheists in foxholes”, that folks look for Divine Intervention in times of peril than so too is it that there are few atheists in mourning.  No.  Despite the fact that they may have adhered to and professed allegiance to an atheistic or agnostic practical worldview for most of their lives, when death visits and takes what is theirs they find faith as something to which their anger can be directed.  They ask the question as does everyone at some time or another but they ask it mockingly, snidely, with a sneer cursing a God they’d never believed in or cared to.  That is a lonely place.  As the old Jesuit axiom advises, “It’s better to believe than not.  If there is no God, well, nothing has really been lost.  But, if there is a God and you did not believe, you might wind up wishing you had.”    This may sound like a cheap advertisement for some cheap generic faith; maybe that is really all that is needed.  After all, who doesn’t want their Sunday’s free for leisure, to conduct their lives as they see fit, to be intellectually superior to those who may be foolish enough to have Faith and, ^^^gulp^^^ actually believe there is something more to all of this, that our lives are not for naught, that there is so much more than meets the eye or can be grasped by the mind?

 Faith: the belief in the unseen, the unknown, the unknowable.  Faith that someone or something is watching, listening and caring about us.  Faith demands reciprocity.  If we believe that God watches over us and hears our prayers, then we must behave in accordance with a certain set of principles be they codified in the Torah, Koran or Bible or any similar sacred text.  We are supposed to worship and honor our Creator, get in good favor with Him or Her so, when we find ourselves in times of trouble we can kneel before our God and ask a favor, ask for forgiveness, mercy, relief from pain or anything else we deem worthy of Divine Intervention.  Faith, despite its reciprocal component is essentially a one way street, an “all or nothing” proposition.  Since faith is blind, we have no way of “knowing” in temporal or conclusive terms that God exists, we just have to believe.  That’s it, no ifs, ands or buts.  Faith can be our anchor in a roiling sea or a bastard notion we care not to associate with all the time, if ever. 

*****     *****

Faith has a counterpart, of a sort, a force as intangible yet felt when present; a pull akin to gravity that bonds people immutably.  That force is Love.  Love, in a manner is Faith personified.  We’re talking that strain of Love that cannot be defined or constrained within the confining boundaries of romance.  No; we address the Love that allows another, with ease and peace, to sacrifice their own life for one they love.  It is the Love a Mother has for a child, a child for one he or she trusts, for a person whose absence would ever so slightly alter the axis and orbital tilt of our world.

Many, many years ago while the first Irish-Catholic President was residing in the White House a young boy asked his Dad a question.  These were the days when Cops directed traffic in dress blues donning white gloves at the intersections in front of Catholic churches throughout the Boroughs on Sunday mornings.  The young boy held his Dad’s hand, both of them freshly bathed and scrubbed and wearing their Sunday best.  They were both hungry from having fasted since going to Confession the night before and abstaining with the intent of receiving Holy Communion the next morning at Mass.

The boy had been troubled throughout most of the previous week.  Every morning as he and his siblings dressed for school the old Zenith radio broadcast the NYC on-air institution with the host John Gambling, known as “Rambling with Gambling” on WOR-AM.  This was the same station that would air “Bob and Ray” on Friday evenings.
The young boy was curious why all the songs he heard playing through the static and city noise in the street below all seemed to be about love.  So, with the gentle familiar scents of Aqua Velva and an El Producto cigar wafting by the boy’s nose, he stood with his Dad waiting to cross the street and asked, “Dad, why are so many songs about love?”  His Dad paused just long enough for a puff on that fragrant cigar and replied, “Because that is all there really is.  That is the most important thing in our lives.”

So two of the most essential human elements, a pair of forces that defy logic and reason and have both a “blind” feature to them is what we are left with when we ask the question. 

There is an answer but no one really wants to hear it.  It seems far too perverse, cruel, even, for the answer to be so trite.  The answer coming from the Great Beyond, from that omnipotent Prime Mover is “Why not?”  That is it, that’s all He’s got to say about it.  After all, as so many of us grew up being taught, He has a Plan, a Divine Plan for each of us and a Big Picture we are each a part of but we are not allowed to know the particulars.  Yes, we are actors in in a millennia long running drama, part tragedy, part comedy, often absurd, ironic, frustrating and quite apparently without rhyme or reason.  Faith requires us to believe this; not just give lip service to it but to believe it in our hearts, even when they are fractured by grief, cold with bitterness, and beating with a subdued fury at the unfairness of it all. 

Faith is the only force in the universe that permits that almost insulting, callous answer to make sense.  Well, maybe not sense.  But, Faith puts the question in perspective after whatever heartache that drew the “why” question from the hollows of our bleeding souls cast us adrift into an abyss of insufferable pain where there exists no light or perspective.

Faith can serve as a rudder for the Soul and Love a rudder for the Heart, that metaphorical but oh so real heart not that pulsating lump of myocardial tissue.  The Soul is also a metaphoric designation for our essence or spirit, that which makes us “us”.  Metaphors aside, the inability to anatomically locate our Heart and Soul is no more proof that they don’t exist as is the absence of evidence proof of evidence of absence.  We all acknowledge, at least on some level, that there is something more to us, in us than the complex and wondrous collection of cells, organs, systems and the magic of life they orchestrate collectively. Some, reluctant to even consider the notion of Heart and Soul are likely to ascribe all things “humans” as products of the Mind; another of these intangible constituent elements.  The brain/mind conundrum is as old as science, religion and philosophy yet still remains a tantalizingly elusive as yet unanswerable not amicable to yielding it secrets to modern medical science despite the monumental multidisciplinary studies.

But, we digress.  That is alright.  We’re discussing some pretty heady stuff here and if we find ourselves wandering off on tangents or walking around in metaphysical circles, so be it.  Actually, it could really be no other way.  Faith, Love, Soul, Heart; mind/brain:  Why and why not?  Still we are not too far afield from where we began.   After all, we began with somebody asking a question and come across a few of our own.  It is human nature to be inquisitive, to seek understanding, explanation, to know.  And now we find that two of the primal forces that guide our lives, Faith and Love pose more questions than answers; that our Heart and Soul are part of this mystical nexus where raw emotion become infused with the oxygen of passion, the basest of feelings exchange the spiritual detritus of sorrow and loss with the corpuscles carrying gracious solace and perhaps acceptance. 

Just as the physiologic processes silently at work conducting all the arduous metabolic activity, the myriad gaseous and chemical exchanges, the host of specialized organs functioning in concert to keep us alive and well do so to maintain the state of homeostasis so too that nexus of Faith and Love, Heart and Soul engage in their own complex dynamic towards the goal of achieving another homeostatic condition; one where we haven’t the burden of a troubled mind, heavy heart, and soul sickness that makes us cry out in anger and in pain, “Why”? 

Why not?

For all the misery and sorrow that can accompany a life it would all be for naught, it would be absolute cosmic cruelty if not for Faith and Love.  Our pain would not be searing if not for Love, our cries not simply lost in the howling tempest of grief and despair if not for Faith. Faith and Love are worth it all and without them we are truly as fragile tumbleweeds exposed to the whims of the wind.

 Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2012 © All Rights Reserved

No comments: