Do you know what makes sense? Calculus. And algebra. And geometry. And linear algebra. And differential equations. And chemistry. And biology. And physics.
Do you know what doesn’t make sense? Philosophy and literature and history. God, definitely not history.
I have never understood why people find the STEM subjects so difficult. I mean, they are all extremely straightforward. There is never any doubt about how they work. (Quantum Theory aside.) If a person doesn’t understand, there are a million resources to help, and, unlike life itself, practice truly does make perfect.
On the other hand, philosophy, literature, and even history, are not only open to any interpretation you like, they vary from culture to culture. History is told from the viewpoint of the ruling class, regardless of the truth. How can anyone stomach such a thing?
Maybe it’s the illusion of control that people like. Maybe they think that by making stuff up they are somehow in control of their thoughts and feelings and lives. I have never been a fan of illusion. I was raised by two people who lied about everything, the truth is everything to me.
Then there is the struggle to understand the real truth that can only be found in math and science. Philosophy may lay claim to seek the truth, but philosophy is whatever you feel at any given moment. Today a person follows the teachings of Buddha, tomorrow they ignore the suffering of the homeless person.
To change science there are rigours a person must run the hypothesis through, then it has to be proved or disproved by multiple other studies. If our darlings are killed, we may either ultimately look like fools for holding onto them, or we must give them the death they deserve.
Not so in other subjects. From the revival of Stoicism among white, male elites to the strongholds of ancient religions around the world, people find a way to hold lies more dear than the truth, even in the face of strong evidence against their validity.
When I left religion, only one person from my church asked me why. I explained to her that I finally looked into all those “facts” the pastors had told us were the proof of the truth of our belief system and discovered there were no facts at all. Her only response was, “Well, that just can’t be true.”
I am aware of the difficulty of accepting reality. The lie of fantasy, that there is some super-being in the sky watching over you, or that, despite all the cruelty of a spouse, they must still love you because (insert whatever reason you made up here), is appealing. It is easier than reality.
On the surface, reality is confusing. It’s chaotic. We want life to make sense. We want to impose our desires on everything that happens around us and, most horribly, on everyone around us.
But once we step into reality, that is not what we find. Yes, there is still suffering, there are still disturbances, but in living in reality, we acknowledge that those things are supposed to be. In reality, we know that life is just that way. In reality, we know that if we miss a light when we are late for work, or our child is given a dire medical diagnosis, that it is not our fault, that there is no being in the sky taking out his wrath on us. The chaos and disappointment are just how life is and they are what should be expected.
Yesterday, there was a 7.1 earthquake here in California. If one is a geologist, one was expecting it. It came after a 6.4 foreshock on Thursday morning. There was something like a 1 in 20 chance it would.
Bad things are inevitable. Regardless of our interpretation of life, regardless of the philosophy we choose, regardless of a belief in a god invented by people who thought the earth was the center of the universe, things will be bad. In the immortal words of the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Life is pain, anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Denying that life is pain is what makes life more painful. If we pretend that life can be good for people, we will refuse to help them. Look no further than the American religious community for that fact. We live in the richest country in the world, yet people still go hungry and still live without even the most basic of needs, all because our religions teach us that some invisible guy will come along and help them if they only believe. Very few step out of that fantasy to help these people in the darkness of their reality.
Reality can keep us grounded. Reality can make us more compassionate if we let it. Reality is safe because it is always true and doesn’t change. It might look as if it does, because we’ve been sold the lie that things need to make sense and that everything happens for a reason. Once you accept reality, however, you see that nothing happens for a reason, but it does happen and what you choose to do as a result is how you truly can change reality.