Why me? What did I do to deserve this? These are questions you normally ask to nobody in particular when sudden tragedy strikes. Sure, they’re merely rhetorical, but they’re also derivative of an underlying philosophy of universal justice or equilibrium. Why you? Because something in the ether decided to afflict you with grief today. What did you do to deserve it? Whatever it was, you’ve forgotten about it and you’re not sure why you’re being punished. And that really is the key to it all; when things go bad, we feel like some cosmic scale has suddenly swung in the opposite direction. But we’re not being punished. And we shouldn’t think that way.
To take a line from the Bible, of all places, it rains on the just and the unjust alike. And when bad things happen, even acutely personal tragedies, they’re merely the result of the chaos that drives everything from the interactions of the atoms within our bodies to the collision of happenstances that pile up upon each other to define the wrong place and the wrong time. While it may be unavoidable to wonder if some deity might have it out for you, for whatever reason, making sense of it all would drive you crazy.
The most kind-hearted, caring and adorable individual that I know has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Through tears, she pleaded, “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?” She grew up in a tumultuous household. Physically and emotionally abused by her mother, she continues to bear the mental scars. Despite all of this, she is loving and compassionate, and she is generous with her time and energy. There isn’t a more precious human I know. Indeed, why her?
You could justify it according to your dogma: she was never very devout. But that opens up a new round of questions. Do good deeds and a good heart not matter? Why not me instead? If there was any sort of justice in the world, I would have stage 3 cancer on my face by now.
You could go the enigmatic route by appealing to the “mysterious ways” in which the world works, but it all seems a bit more insane than methodical. In terms of personal challenges, she has been an unwilling sacrifice upon the altar of perfect examples.
Searching for meaning in the face of a cosmic injustice is biting on a ball fake. In the end, you’ll find yourself with a million justifications for something that had no divine inspiration in the first place. You were not chosen. You are not being taught a lesson. You are not being made an example of. No eternal being has so much as glanced in your direction. Further, karma is not reclaiming its debt and you weren’t a twat in any of your past lives.
In a way, it’s comforting to know that anything bad that could happen like that is completely unrelated to who I am as an individual. Sure, maybe my genetics or social class make it more likely for something terrible to befall me, but it’s never going to be a moral judgement or a purposeful action. No god is looking down on me and devising ways to fuck with my day to teach me a lesson better learned through a poignant conversation. If something bad should happen, I won’t be looking for justification. There’s no appeal process. It’s just my new reality and I must learn to live with it.