Thursday, July 3, 2008

Things happening for a reason?

Ferox: Spectus, have you wondered what is your purpose in life?

Spectus: Yes.

Ferox: And? What is it?

Spectus: It's simple. There is no purpose.

Ferox: No purpose! I cannot believe that. There must be a purpose behind the things that happen everyday. I think that everything happens for a reason.

Spectus looks at Ferox for a moment, as if trying to peer into his soul to understand why is he saying such things.

Spectus: Very well, here is what I think. First of all, you said "things happen for a reason". What does reason mean to you?

Ferox: Reason is the cause, the purpose for which something is happening.

Spectus: So you say that in order for something to happen there must be a reason. Otherwise, that event never occurs. Is that what you mean?

Ferox: Essentially, yes. That's what I mean.

Spectus: Well then, suppose that an average good guy has a car accident and that he dies as a consequence of it. Now I ask you, what was the purpose of the accident?

Ferox: Well, I don't know. But that doesn't mean that there isn't one.

Spectus: So, say that the guy had a wife and a son. Do you think that they would find a purpose in the death of that man?

Ferox: I know what you are at! You want to show me that there is no purpose in his death. However I would say that there is no immediate purpose, at least none that we can see. It could be that as a consequence of his death some other things will happen for other people.

Spectus: Of course! Many things will occur as a consequence that man's death. But that is just causality.

Ferox: What do you mean?

Spectus: I meant that the man's death will be the cause of many things, for sure. But to claim that it had a purpose is a very subjective issue.

Ferox: It's not subjective. It could be that the guy was the president of some company. Now that he is dead, someone else is going to get promoted to that position.

Spectus: But it is subjective, because you try to see a positive purpose. You try to see in the man's death that good things follow from it. What about the bad things? What about the sadness and sorrow of his wife? What about the life of the kid without his father? Would you say that the purpose of that man's death was to deprive a family from their happiness?

Ferox: Well...

Spectus: If your answer is "yes", the immediate reaction is to ask why? Why depriving a family from happiness? What kind of purpose is that? It's nonsense! Then we move on to ask who? Who is behind this tragedy? If there was a human being behind all of it, we would like to see him in jail, for planning such atrocity. But if no one is guilty, then what do we do? Who is there to blame? How to conciliate the fact that everything happens for a reason with the fact that that reason is to bring sadness and misery? On the contrary, if your answer is "no", that the man's death was not to deprive a family from its happiness, then what is the purpose? How far into the future you need to go to see something good coming from a death? What if there is nothing good as a consequence of it?

Ferox: Well, you can't warranty that there is nothing good coming from his death.

Spectus: Exactly. By the same token, you can not warranty that there is something good coming out of it. In other words, you can not see purpose for everything that happens. And if you do, you have to accept that there are also negative purposes. Things that happen in detriment of people. But you can't accept that, can you? And I'll tell you why. It's because the idea of purpose implies that there is a plan. And a plan suggests that there is someone behind the scene. What I think is that you try to see purpose in the things because it makes you feel better. Because you are afraid to live in a world in which things just happen with no purpose at all. You want to believe that each person existence has a reason, because otherwise, what are we doing here? In a sentence: you want an answer for your question, and you fabricate one.

Ferox: I'm free to choose my perception of life or even make up my own one.

Spectus: It's certainly true. The problem is that your fabrication has unintended ramifications that you can not conciliate. You want to see purpose, but only good purpose. You want to believe that there is a plan and don't understand why there are apparently bad things in that plan. And when you are stuck with the things you don't understand you just simply abandon the problem to the will of some supreme being. Thy will be done! Thus, at the end of the day you have nothing. You have traded the question of what is your purpose in life for the existence of a supreme being whose will you don't know but you accept! That doesn't solve anything at all.

Ferox: At least it gives me something to hold on. Something to believe in.

Spectus: It's fine. If that makes you feel better, it's fine. But bear in mind at all times that you chose to believe that and that you run into problems when you try to push the limits of your believes, because you just change the focus of asking about your existence to asking about some supreme being who is outside your mental reach.

Ferox: Ok, ok. Fine... So if there is no purpose, what do you believe in?

Spectus: Nothing. I don't think there is purpose for anything. Things just happen. Things occurs without you watching them or taking care of them. I think that I am alive and that I have no particular purpose in life. All that happens follows a very specific order. An order that can be studied, analyzed and expressed in mathematical terms. This is my way of looking for answers. I use my brain with all its capacity to try to understand the world around me.

Ferox: Of course, you are one of those people with an intellectual vanity. But there are things that science doesn't explain.

Spectus: True. But science doesn't make up answers neither tells nice stories to fill in the gap. There are things without explanation, it's true. But science it's not static. It's the continuous endeavor to understand more and more and try to close the gap of the unknown.

Ferox: And what good does it make for you? Why is it better than my belief?

Spectus: I really think that it is more honest. For me it is better to accept my limitations as a human being and realize that there are things that I simply don't know. Whatever explanation I try to find, I make it consistent with what I am and what I know. I don't look for someone to blame when things go wrong or someone to thank when things are favorable. I rather accept that there are millions of things happening that I don't know and don't control. That the good or bad events that occur to me or to other people are as natural as a river flowing, or the sun shining, or my computer playing a movie or a dog barking. They all are events occurring according to the laws of nature. No more and no less.

Ferox: That's too simple, there has to be something more!

Spectus: You have said it all! It is as simple as that. Why do you want to make it complicated?

Ferox: I can't accept living in a world like that.

Spectus: Well, my friend, it is all in your head. Nature doesn't have any conflict. The conflict is all in our heads. It is in our nature to inquire, but it's not in our reach to answer.

Ferox: Gosh...! Why we always end up empty handed?

Spectus: You are not. We have gained a lot.
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