Sunday Morning Coming Down
The title of this blog is also the title to a Kris Kristofferson song. It describes a man that longs for something he feels is lost, but also hoping for the familiar feeling of being “stoned”. Because “there’s something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone, and there’s nothing short of dying, half as lonesome as the sound, on the sleeping city sidewalks, Sunday morning coming down”. Kris Kristofferson knows how to write a great song.
My considerations do not concern themselves with the life and times of celebrities beyond a minor interest. What I know of Kristofferson is that he was a teacher early in his career. He had some troubles in his life, he got some help in his life, he is not afraid to say what he feels should be heard, and he is still relevant for me. I have seen him twice in concert. Once when he opened for Bob Dylan and once when he came only with a guitar to the Tennessee Theater. Regardless of what I know, Sunday morning, at the Thompson house, has come down.
I do not wish I was stoned. I do not wish for much of anything. This article is in response to a shared project with my twelve year-old son Carter, who wanted to write a blog as well. We are in separate rooms. We are writing on the same topic. Our common topic deals with the question, “why do good things happen to good people”. Just the fact that he is willing to consider a topic such as this tickles me beyond anything I could dream and I will share a link to his blog with his response below.
What I know is this. There are bad things. There are good people. It could be as Jesus said, that “rain falls on the just and the unjust”. It could be as churches say, that none of us are good (though I doubt that is the case). It could even be that we are in a crap shoot the Universe is playing and we have no say in what happens to us in our living on this earth, at this moment, and through what has been thrust upon us by either divine will or chance.
What I also know are these. Bad things do not happen to good people because good people have lost faith or the ability to pray in the correct way. Bad things do not happen to good people because they are keeping “bad things” or thoughts a secret from the rest of the world. Evil is not lurking around the corner to gobble up all those that are not guarded somehow against evil. We do not have trouble in life to make us stronger or make room for something even better than what we suffer through and tough times do befall us so that mediocre blessings might seem like relief. We are not living through a refining fire to purify our souls (yes… this is directly contradicting St. Paul).
Why do bad things happen to good people? When most people ask this question, it is used as indictment against God. Those that feel compelled to defend God offer so many answers, some of which have been mentioned. My answer is simpler. My answer may not be theologically sound, or promote this or that dogmatic response, but for me, it is how I deal with the obvious flaw in what we have come to know as “our existence in an imperfect world”. It is, in a way, an indictment, but an indictment of humanity. A humanity, of which I am a part.
Some people suck. People are not perfect. Some people want more for what they can have than for what they are able to share. We focus on what we fear rather than what goodness we could imagine for ourselves and others. We are hardwired for the survival of ourselves, our families, our circles of friends, and our species more than for what sustains that survival. We tend to be more concerned with how we are perceived than with how we are helping. Most of the bad things that happen to good people are initiated in some ways by people.
Some things happen without an explanation. Some things that happen are devastating, and no matter what we do to try to understand them, we cannot understand them. There are those occasions when a different perspective is all we need to see that a thing is not “bad”, but there are also children starving as I spend $40 for a meal to be served to my family. There are things we work through and realize they helped in the long run, but there are also mothers of small children being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer just after the births of their children. There are horrors perpetrated in war and peaceful times that can be easily blamed on ingrates and infidels, but there is also a drought in India leaving those that live there without life sustaining water.
And this, for me, is enough of this. What I cannot help with, I am comfortable not thinking about. It might make for a good news loop until something more sensational comes along, but if I am to do anything to help anyone, what is good for them and me, is for me, to stay focused on the goodness and possibility in life. The world has proved it can survive without me. The sun will not refuse to shine when I am gone. What I ask myself each day is this, how can I teach my son and those around me that life is about more than what happens only to us. This is why I have tackled such a ridiculously hard question this morning.
What will be surprising to Carter is that my answer to the question, “why do bad things happen to good people”, will be, “I am unsure. I do not know. Maybe there is no reason at all”.
I am a bit of a success story. I have been through some things that others have not. I am on the other side now. I do not consider them to be good or bad things and I do not think they are responsible for where I am now. The facts are, you are a success story also. You have been through some things that others have not. You are on the other side of those things now. Whether you are convinced they were good or bad, or that you would be where you are now without those experiences, you know that whatever life threw at you, you were able to handle it and turn it into something you could manage or thrive in. For me, and I would not say this for anyone else, life is either only poop or it is also fertilizer. It is both.
I do not question the Universe when it gives me what I consider to be good and I do not question the Universe when it gives me what I consider to be bad. I try to take what comes, both good and bad, with a grain of proverbial salt. The good things and the bad things that are said of me are simply that. Things that are said about me. The wins and the losses in life are events in life, only results from a game that is not over, and never the final score. Do I feel like the Universe wants good things for me? Yes. Does this help me when a plane is delayed or there is traffic along my route to meet a friend? Yes. Does this mean that I am always happy when things do not go the way I have them planned? No.
Here is the recommendation. If we perceive a thing we believe is bad, we should surround those involved with love. If we perceive a thing we believe is good, we should surround those involved with grace and gratitude. If we perceive a thing and cannot determine whether it is good or bad, then we should know we are growing to understand that we do not know enough about the way the world works to decide the goodness or the badness of thing, and that this is all there is to do. If we can help, we help. If we can smile in spite of our inability to help, we smile. If we take the time to consider the wickedness of what can easily be found in the world, we also take the time to consider the wonder on the face of a newborn child. We keep the balance in our minds, to the positive, about the good things, while at the same time we engage suffering in an attempt to alleviate suffering.
If Jesus believed that I could commit adultery by lusting, or murder by being angry, surely I can change the world by offering it something positive, even if I do not possess that something positive at this moment. And this is what I am offering you. The permission not to know the answer to such a hard question as “why do bad things happen to good people”. And now, Sunday morning has come down. It is now Sunday afternoon. I wish you well. I wish for you peace. In spite of the tragedies in the world, there are good things also. Some people got that peace in a church service today. My son and I got it by writing blogs. I hope you received it in some way also. You are a factory for the generation of good vibes that the world needs to keep turning. Keep them coming.
Check out Carter’s response to this question… which is much better than mine… at teenview.home.blog.