Posted by: dswerling | June 18, 2008

On the Death of a Good Friend

My friend Ally died on Sunday. She had a migraine while driving and blacked out and her car hit a telephone pole. She was nineteen and full of life. She was a born again Christian, and we had a lot of theological disputes. She cared about everyone. She worked hard to improve the world around her. She was a much better Christian than I’ll ever be.

Losing a close friend put my theories of why we suffer to the test. I’d always thought that we suffered because that’s the only way to grow stronger and love more deeply, but I knew that in the midst of the agony from terrible emotional loss or heartache, I might find those theories thoroughly debunked. What happened then was strange, considering the circumstances. When it came to the theories, I found them entirely correct. I see the way that my fellow friends and I, and our families and community, have pulled together in love and fellowship. Ally was a good friend of my girlfriend, and I know this will further deepen my girlfriend and my relationship. I know it will make me stronger, wiser, and a kinder and more compassionate person. These things were revealed to be true to me in several days. However, it was more interesting to me what was revealed the moment I learned of her tragic death:

I simply know now that there is a God.

It probably seems like a ballzy claim. I’m not surprised if you feel that way. In my defense I’d like to say that this knowledge brought no relief, only guilt. It was less of a revelation like “don’t worry, God will take care of her” and more like “There’s a God. Deal with it.” That night when I finally returned home, I looked at the shelf I have in my room that has about a hundred dollars worth of books by Christian apologists. I could have thrown them all away right there. I suddenly had no doubts anymore, her death had completely emptied me. I didn’t care what Hume’s critique of the Cosmological argument was, or whether or not modern science proves or disproves the Teleological argument. I had no interest in what Dawkins or Dennett or Stenger or any of the others had to say on why faith was irrational. I think I felt the way Saint Thomas Aquinas must have felt in Church that day shortly before he died, when he suddenly fell into a trance, and upon coming out of it said “I have just been witness to so much knowledge that all I know and understand suddenly seems without value” (or something like that.) When you’re faced with something so absurd and large, you suddenly realize your own inability to articulate anything meaningful. When true meaning slaps you in the face, your pathetic attempts to create it are simply flushed down the toilet.

My Christian journey is far from over. I had to think long and hard about conceptions of life after death. I had to wonder about the resurrection. I had to wonder about the problem of evil. But I realized in that moment of revelation that all of these concerns were just me figuring myself out, not me figuring God out. How could we ever figure God out? We can’t even figure out what justice is. We can’t figure out love, or honor, or truth, or even know we ourselves exists. How can we even begin to figure out God? It’s a futile guesture, and I have no interest in the matter anymore. My only interest now is to help other people, with the help of God. Understanding what “this” is, trying to figure “this” out, it’s hopeless. And who cares really? What good will it do me to figure “this” out? By the time I figure it out my chance to help others probably will have passed me by. I would rather help others. Curing pain and heartache such as what I’ve felt these past few days is a much worthier goal. My journey isn’t over, but I’ve reached a critical turn in the road. I intend to meditate on true meaning, on scripture, and on myself here now, and nothing more.

If you’re an Atheist, or a Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist or Jew or anything else in this world today, I just say good for you. Please just help me to help everyone else. That seems like all that’s ever going to matter at all.

Rest in peace Ally+

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