Why Bad Things Happen - A Theoretical Discussion

This post is dedicated to the victims of all the tragedies that are mentioned within.  May they rest in peace, and may comfort find those who have been affected.

As many of you know, this past weekend marked the deadliest mass shooting in American history.  In the same state, a toddler was dragged underwater by an alligator at Disney World.  Chicago continues to see victims of violence everyday, and I find it almost routine to check the news and see how many people died while I was sleeping.  Reading about such events can be numbing, and I find myself sometimes questioning the meaning of it all.  Why do bad things happen? 

Many people have written and spoken about the nature of Evil and its purpose in the world.  It would be impossible to fit all of their thoughts in this humble blog.  However, some of these ideas have stuck with me over the years, and I would like to present them to you in the hopes of reframing why these tragedies take place.  I think it prudent to point out that I am not a philosopher, and the following ideas aren't mine.  Additionally, these are just ideas, and I'm not trying to force any viewpoint on you, dear reader.  Please feel free to agree or disagree as you see fit!  Lastly, this blog is not intending to dismiss or diminish the pain felt by the victims, survivors, friends, and families of those affected by such horrific events.  If my words offend, please know that you have my sincerest apologies.

Can't Have The Sweet Without The Sour 

One idea regarding the nature of why Evil exists suggests that we as a species wouldn't be able to understand what Good is if we didn't have the counterpoint of Evil.  After all, it is hard to have a duality explained to you if you only know one side of it.  For example, the basic division of Earth is essentially land and water.  Humans understand what water is because we know what land is.  Conversely, fish that never leave the water more than likely cannot fathom what land is because they only know what water is.  Their world only consists of one side of the land / water division.  Therefore, in their world, the concept of water cannot possibly exist because nothing has illustrated to them what water is or how a lack of water feels.  

Likewise, how could anybody come to truly appreciate the kindness of somebody volunteering at a soup kitchen if those who could not afford food didn't exist?  That's not to say that people in lower socioeconomic classes deserve to be miserable or are choosing to be there (even though there are outliers).  Rather, because of their situation, the distinction of what a good deed is is made clear.  There would be no need for soup kitchens or volunteers if everybody had enough food to eat.  I hope the day comes during my lifetime where everyone can eat as much as they want, but for now, I choose to appreciate the selflessness of those who strive to treat others with extreme kindness.

Connecting this notion to the aforementioned tragedies, this philosophy would suggest that they have occurred to better illustrate what Good and Evil are.  Without these or any historical crimes, humans wouldn't have concepts of Good and Evil.  I leave that quandary of whether or not that's how things should be to you.  

Balancing The Universe 

Certain religions and philosophies posit that there is Duality in the Universe.  Many things could not exist without the opposite balancing the original.  Examples include Light and Dark, Man and Woman, Order and Chaos, and of course, Good and Evil.   This means that with the creation of one concept, an equal yet opposite concept must also be born.  Duality is inescapable and should be embraced for what it is.

This balanced way of thinking was best illustrated to me via a movie poster for The Matrix:  Revolutions.  While I know many of you would rather pretend that The Matrix sequels don't exist, I happened to enjoy them (though the first one is still the best)!  Anyway, this poster had a phrase on it that still sticks with me.  "Everything that has a beginning has an ending."  Simple, but it illustrates how things in the Universe operate according to Duality.

Those who follow this principle may suggest that murder and chaos happen to balance out life and order.  I have even heard it suggested that these atrocities are a direct reflection of how much Good is in the world.  Think of a lightbulb slowly turning on in a dark room.  As it gets brighter, the shadows grow larger, twisting every which way to stay away from the light.  Eventually, the light will burn so brilliantly that the entire room will be lit up, with no shadow being safe.  This idea applies to the world that we live in.  Horrors are oftentimes brought into public awareness much faster than they have in generations past.  This may mean that the "shadows" of society are just twisting away from the light.  Will the world ever know a light so brilliant that no shadows exist?  I'm not sure, but I am going to strive for that world and get as close to it as I can.

Divine Teachers In Human Form 

The final idea I'd like to discuss today comes from a family friend and Reiki practitioner.  I have always described her as a Christian mystic, though I'm not sure she would say the same.  Regardless, she often talked about reincarnation and the Cycle of Learning (my term).  Essentially, we as people sit down in the spirit realm with guides and counselors to plan out who we will be, major events in our lives, and what we need to learn.  Once set, we are sent to Earth to live out our lives.  Death then brings us back to the spirit realm where everybody debriefs and discusses how successful we all were in accomplishing our goals.  If the lessons were learned, we reincarnate to learn the next lesson.  If not, we must return again so that we have the opportunity to learn the same lesson that we didn't get in the previous life.  While that may sound futile to some, the constant growing by each soul brings more and more wisdom into the world with each new reincarnation.  

Additionally, we come back with those who are familiar with our souls.  These souls may be siblings or parents in some lives and friends in others (yes, that may mean that your sister was once your father in a past life.  It's weird, but stay with me!).  These big groups of souls come back to help each other throughout their lives.  Sometimes though, they come back for larger reasons.  

Souls that might not have any explicit connection may end up partaking in large events that change the course of society.  Think back to the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon.  People died, and others were permanently injured after the explosion.  While horrific, the purely selfless acts that came afterwards were truly inspiring.  A few runners even ran directly to the nearest hospital to donate blood.  The light of human kindness shone through after that event.  However, in order for the light to shine, something dark had to happen.  

According to this philosophy, the argument could be made that the victims of this explosion came down to Earth to sacrifice themselves to leave a greater impact on the larger world.  While preparing for their next life, they agreed to come down and have their lives cut short to illustrate human goodness.  They agreed to this despite not necessarily even knowing one another.  Yes, this is hard for me to wrap my own head around too.  Why would the victims of such awful crimes choose to go through such things?  And yet, the beauty of people coming together to help perfect strangers couldn't happen without the tragedy.

Closing Thoughts

I confess that all three of these philosophies do have similar threads to them, but the slight differences make them all intriguing to me.  However, as I stated earlier, this article isn't intended to dictate what you believe and how you should run your life.  I also hope it doesn't do a disservice to those who are no longer with us, as I had no intention of offending.  

With that said, the ideas presented here are meant to be simple examples of differing notions as to why Evil exists.  I leave it up to you to determine if you accept or reject them.  Still, I think it is safe to say that out of all the bad things that happen in this world, I never cease to be amazed by the outpouring of support and goodwill from society at large.  It is truly inspiring to see humanity continue to show love and support for each other during times of trouble while simultaneously setting aside our differences.  And that, dear readers, is a light that I hope never goes out.


Gregory T. Obert