Two of the Most Treacherous Questions in English: Why? What If?

Treacherous is not always a bad thing. Some of the highlights of my life were born within treacherous moments, like summiting a mountain, watching one of my children being born, and the list goes on. So, when I use this word here, I’m not just speaking of something bad.

I came very close to buying a real African lion cub (long story) in 1990. My sensible wife pointed out, that while the cub would be adorable, it would eventually grow up and eat all of our children when we weren’t watching. She was right. That’s the way it is with these words. They are wonderful (I especially love Why), but they have to be handled with caution.

Most of the time Why is not asked enough. I don’t understand people with no intellectual curiosity. I have literally laid awake in bed at night awake trying to figure out why the collision of two massive black holes billions of miles away can send gravity waves here? This is not to mention the How. I think often (at least weekly) about the relationship between time and gravity, or how a monarch butterfly can fly in a storm. Okay, that’s another How question.

The Why question becomes most dangerous when we do not recognize it’s limits. It sometimes becomes like the hopeless search for the mythical golden city of El Dorado. It then becomes emotional and draining and self-devouring, turning onward and inward like a Tim Burton, corkscrewed hill. I’ve had countless (far too many to count) headache patients who never got better because they could not put to rest the Why.

I don’t speak as someone who has studied and mastered the way to ask and not ask questions. I speak as someone who has followed such questions in the past, that almost consumed me. I’ve followed these questions deep into the bowels of the philosophical, theological, and metaphysical crawl-spaces. It is shocking for me to say, but I’m glad I did, but it was very dangerous.

I am certainly not saying these questions are taboo. Often people are afraid to ask the “scary” questions like, “Does God exist?” I ask that question weekly, if not daily. It is not a form of doubt, but my kind of faith. I must engage the question with every turn, or God becomes as superfluous as a social idiom, or icon. For the same reason I ask myself a lot of my wife really loves me. If I never asked the question, that’s where doubt would bloom.

But there comes a time that the Why must be put to bed. Tuck it in, cover it up and let it sleep. It will be okay. Someday we may know, but if it is not knowable …  why bother? That’s the difference, I believe that the true relationship between time and gravity is knowable.

So, I suspend any attempt to try and understand the Why of my present life-alternating situation. In these situations, the path to find the Why usually ends up in one of three places. First, God did this to me for a reason. Now that sounds sweet, just like a Hallmark Movie, but if you really carry that line of thinking out to its logical conclusion, you end up with an likable God (you will still pretend to like him in public, but hate and mistrust him in your heart). Another hole you end up in is that God is impotent, thus he cancels himself out from fulfilling the definition. The third hole is that there could be no God, no purposeful fate to life, all chaos. In that hole, nothing matters anyway, life or death, good, or bad, helping or hurting, healing, or killing.  Survival of the species becomes only a delay to the bitter end, but no real meaning. Let the herd go extinct. They are all the same.

So, you just let it be. Ascribe it to one of the great mysteries, unknowable by mere mortals. It is a act of peaceful trust that must you say, although without pretentious certainty,  I believe God is there, I believe that God is good and that he will restore all the universe in the end.

I will conclude this by only mentioning the What If.  If doesn’t apply much to my situation because the entire ball of waxy-donkey-shit was inevitable and I did nothing to cause it or could have prevented it. But there are those situations in life where the What If becomes the recreational drug-of-choice for a particular individual. What if I had paid more attention to them when they were crying for help, or not have gone to that party, or had looked more carefully before I backed out the car. In that case, the What If becomes the real elixir of madness.




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2 responses to “Two of the Most Treacherous Questions in English: Why? What If?”

  1. Boy Mike, I woke up to reading this and thought I must still be sleeping! What a brain you have, that sure is healthy!! I am sorry to say that stuff is way over my head and thus, that’s why I was your receptionist and you were the “doc” haha! You’re a great sweet guy and I always enjoyed our “ down to earth “ conversations about the realities of genuine faith and not the hypocrital kind we both have experienced in our personal walks with God. Keep posting, I’ll keep being challenged!!! Hugs, and lots of prayers to you and Denise!


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