Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why do people suffer?

This is a man-made dam in the general area of the Sichuan earthquake. But in the areas actually hit by the earthquake, many lakes have been formed when landslides blocked the rivers. Now, these lakes are threatening to burst and flood the towns downstream, which have already been badly damaged by the earthquake. It seems the suffering will never end.

Many people, when faced with disasters of such immensity, ask “why?”Why do they have to die? Why do so many apparently innocent people, particularly the very young, have to suffer for no obvious reason? It has often been said that suffering builds character. But what is there left to build if a person is died? Where is the justice when evil people continue to live while the good ones die?

Such questions are difficult to answer, particularly in the heat of the moment, when the hurt and the emotions are high. But if we do not think of death as the end of everything, then it is possible to come up with answers. In a movie, the ending is often the climax. If we stop watching before the movie actually ends, we may miss the whole point of the movie.

If, at death, the “good” people actually go on to a better life, then life may not be so capricious after all. We cannot, in fact, be sure (in most cases) who is good and who is bad, being without the ability to look into someone’s heart - although in some cases we can be quite certain. For example, as to the teachers and mothers who died to save the young, there is little doubt that they have noble hearts and God looks on them with favour.

Through such heroic actions, not only did they save a few lives. They have influenced the lives of many more, and their actions will be talked about for a long time. I would definitely not say their sufferings are meaningless.

It is those of us who are living, particularly those who lead comfortable lives, who should ask ourselves: am I living just for my own enjoyment? Or am I doing things truly meaningful? And to whom?

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