Saturday, April 15, 2017

Theodicy, Death, and the Laws of Nature II (Thomas Lynch)

The set of events (rather pointless to call them "unlikely") that resulted in the death of a young girl named Stephanie are provided on p 55, just prior to this section.  To briefly summarize, the family was driving through Kentucky on their way to Georgia for vacation.  Some local Kentucky boys, mischievous but not malevolent, were messing around in a local cemetery for fun.  They stole a headstone.  Getting tired of carrying it, they decided to toss it off the overpass.  It was at just this moment that Stephanie's van passed under:
The stone shattered the windshield, glanced off Stephanie's father's right shoulder, woke her mother riding in the passenger seat and, parting the space between the two front seats, struck Stephanie in the chest as she lay sleeping in the back seat.  She had just traded places with her younger brother who cuddled with his two sisters in the rear seat of the van.  It did not kill Stephanie instantly.  Her sternum was broken.  Her heart bruised beyond repair.
Words provide little comfort.  No explanation can dull the reality of it (I assume the story is true).  But Lynch cannot help but cycle through the various explanations:
Sometimes it seems like multiple choice.
    A: It was the Hand of God.  God woke up one Friday the 13th and said, "I want Stephanie!"  How else to explain the fatal intersection of bizarre events.  Say the facts slowly, they sound like God's handiwork.  If the outcome were different, we'd call it a miracle.
    Or B: It wasn't the Hand of God.  God knew it, got word of it sooner or later, but didn't lift a hand because He knows how much we've come to count on the Laws of Nature - gravity and objects in motion and at rest - so He doesn't fiddle with the random or deliberate outcomes.  He regrets to inform us of this, but surely we must understand His position.
    Or C: The Devil did it.  If faith supports the existence of Goodness, then it supports the probability of Evil.  And sometimes, Evil gets the jump on us.
    Or D: None of the above.  Shit happens.  That's life, get over it, get on with it.
    Or maybe E: All of the above, Mysteries - like decades of the rosary - glorious and sorrowful mysteries.
Each of the answers leaves my inheritance intact - my father's fear, my mother's faith.  If God's will, shame on God is what I say.  If not, then shame on God.  It sounds the same.  I keep shaking a fist at the Almighty asking 'Where were you on the morning of the thirteenth'?  The alibi changes every day.
The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch, p 56

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