Possibility

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being, which is precisely why I cannot call myself an atheist. It is why I occasionally recite the appropriate Jewish blessings before eating and am jealous of those who believe in supernatural forces that imbue their lives with purpose. It is why, in part, I was driven to recite the Orphan’s Kaddish daily during the year following Papa’s death. After all, who the heck knows? I sure don’t.

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being, but I wish I could know the unknowable truth, one way or another. Is the universe ordered? Do our lives have meaning? Is suffering purposeful? I have not personally experienced anything to suggest that any of these possibilities are true; but would that they were…


d’Verse

It’s prosery time at d’Verse. The rules are simple:

  1. Use an assigned line in the body of your prose. You may change the punctuation and capitalization, but you are not allowed to insert any words within the line itself. You can add words at the beginning and/or at the end of the line; but the line itself must remain intact.
  2. Your prose can be either flash fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction. YOU CAN NOT WRITE A POEM for this prompt. AND, your prose should be no longer than 144 words, sans title. It does not have to be exactly 144 words. But it can be no longer than 144 words.

The assigned line was:

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being.

Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012), ‘Possibilities’

A quick note:

Usually I respond to d’Verse prosery prompts with pieces of fiction, but the assigned line from Szymborska’s poem spoke directly to my heart, and I had been wanting to write a short piece like this regardless.

72 thoughts on “Possibility”

        1. Yes, I believe we have a first cause aka G-d. Given free will this entity cannot be a puppet master. Intervenes via our prayer and pleading to grant miracles. Or this entity created a clockwork universe which is simply winding down to its end.
          God’s Will is bandied about to excuse pain and suffering. The Muslims say God knows best and if he wills it, which is an easy out in any situation.

        2. Andrew,

          The existence of a supernatural being makes more sense to me than a Big Bang.
          That’s about all that seems plausible to me, but, that said, anything is possible, I suppose.

          Yours,
          David

  1. deep thinking, suffering serves to highlight pleasure, satisfaction, success … without suffering these words and feelings would not have meaning!

        1. No, I wasn’t.

          But I will say that suffering is not doled out evenly by any stretch – and I don’t need to witness the tremendous levels of suffering that I see some experiencing in this world in order to appreciate the good in it.

        2. Kate,

          I have not personally experienced anything to suggest that such an idea is true, but I am very happy for those who have.

          Yours,
          David

    1. I choose to not disbelieve entirely because that would be intellectually dishonest.
      That’s all I’ve got. That – and a bit of hope, I guess.


      David

  2. What I can’t accept about militant atheism is that its adherents refuse to keep in mind that possibility. Isn’t that in itself a kind of dogma? And is that any better than any other religion?

  3. I too have rejected being an atheist, both because of that nagging possibility, and because most atheist I’ve met are as dogmatic as fervent believers.
    I’ve also rejected the state religion, because I partly grew up in the church and found most adults there “believed” because it was an expedient to get social standing.
    Being a mystic sceptic suits me much better.

    1. It’s so important to find something that works for you. I’m glad you did. Mysticism doesn’t seem to suit me, but skepticism certainly does, Helene.


      David

  4. thanks David. Beautiful. For me the quote goes together with Einstein’s letter to the grieving father, which you may know off. As Simone Weil says, parallels meet in the infinite, so I argue the open mind with questions, pain and grief may be closer to the Ultimate Reality than those who put up walls of definitions. Nota bene: My experience with such walls is almost entirely from within RC tradition. Best wishes,

    1. To be honest, Barbara, I hadn’t known about that letter. But, wow, it’s fantastic.

      Thank you for sharing it with me:

      On February 12, 1950, Einstein wrote back to a grieving father who had lost his son:

      Dear Mr. M.,

      A human being is part of the whole world, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

      With my best wishes,
      Sincerely yours,
      Albert Einstein

  5. David, I’m so very pleased that my prompt spoke to you and resulted in this wonderful piece. I truly enjoyed reading it!
    I would say I’m not exactly an atheist, but I’m not a believer either. I’ve always thought it was arrogant to believe Earth is the only planet with life, and humans are at the top. There could very be other creatures out there–even some we’d consider gods.

  6. Great post and valid questions. Enjoyed reading the comments and Einstein’s letter as well. I went to a Christian college and believe in the Old and New Testaments but I do think the Bible is poorly understood at times. But I do think yes, there is an order, (we see it in nature and I feel it) yes, the creator made the rules and created it all (I do like the kabbalistic philosophy of God as the bestower and creation as the receiver and we have to strive to be more like God and less egoistic to reach our true potential) and yes, suffering can be purposeful as it does tear down the ego and allow the former to happen. 💝

    1. Tricia,

      I know people hold such beliefs, including people in my own life, but I simply don’t. They defy my impression of reality and don’t sit comfortably with me. As for suffering, sure, it puts things in perspective, but that doesn’t prove that it exists in order to do so, as far as I can tell.

      💙
      David

      1. I see suffering in different ways at times. Yes, it doesn’t make sense for children to starve, etc, on individual levels to our eyes. But our understanding is limited. We really can’t see all of reality.

    1. Yes. And I’ve heard it said that life is a tapestry, but we can only see the messy strings that stick out on the back, whereas it’s perfect in the front.

      -David

  7. I think the best way to keep the options open is to live your life to the fullest while doing well to others… I think it gives you all your benefits of being… here and now. Then we have to see if there is anything else beyond.

  8. I certainly envy my family members and a High School friend who are strong believers, and find solace in their faith. I have tried to believe, but every time I come back to that question of why G-d/Karma/the Universe allows certain types of abuse to happen to 6 year old children and have it covered up by their parents, I cannot believe in a benevolent creator or system that puts kids in the hands of abusive and selfishly negligent people.

    But, I have no idea what is out there, so I can’t be an atheist.
    And I like to keep a bit of hope that there really is something I’m missing, and that maybe the universe isn’t such a completely empty place, after all.

    But in the meantime, just in case there is nothing but us out there, I feel certain that what meaning in life we have, regardless of our beliefs, is created by our will to build a better life for those who come after us. No creator can ask more of us, I imagine?

      1. But, for me, this is the flaw in your approach, JYP. Because if you can “choose” belief, why couldn’t you “choose” to believe that karma justifies the suffering of children? Why and where and how do you draw the line if it’s simply a choice that make for yourself?

        1. Why would I choose to believe that children suffering is justified? I find that a cruel and absurd belief.

          The fact that children suffer is one extremely damning piece of evidence against the existence of a G-d who is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing. (Evolution is another piece of evidence like this, although I believe it much easier to reconcile evolution rather than suffering). I have made a personal choice to believe in the existence of a G-d who is good, but I do not deny that there is considerable evidence against this, and I refuse to pretend that this isn’t really evidence with attitudes like suggesting that the victims somehow deserve their suffering or that there is some greater good that comes out of child abuse, etc.

        2. I’m not saying you would. I’m saying that some people do. That’s what a belief in karma is, essentially.

          Do the beliefs that you’ve chosen to hold provide any insight into the suffering of children?

        3. Good question. My beliefs have not provided any insight into the why of this question. Truthfully, I don’t think there is any answer that would be satisfying. My beliefs enhance my life in other ways (eg. gratitude for the blessings in my life) but they do not answer this question.

        4. David, if I remember Viktor Frankl and Jesus according to one quote in the so-called NT have answered the question of ‘karma’ – at least I find their answer deeply satisfactory: – not ‘what has he done to deserve this’ – but: ‘so glory and grace will be revealed in and through him…’ (Jesus, NT… paraphrased by BS). Have a good day.

      2. Thank you, JYP! Exactly.
        And waiting for someone, G-d, Mashiach, or The Universe, to fix it is not acceptable, either: it is not up to us to complete the work, but neither is any of us free to desist from the work of repairing this out-of-order system, either.
        So, even the Sages agreed that we have to fix it.
        Right?
        (“Of course right!” )

    1. I spent years praying every day, and I wouldn’t say that this did anything for my beliefs or relationship with God.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that it works for some people, but not for all.


      David

  9. I love your piece David posing more questions than answers. I love that you stay in question and are open. Intuition guides me and when I’m still the divine makes it’s presence known and living in the unknown is always the challenge. 💖

    1. Thanks so much, Cindy. I’m in the unknown pretty much all the time, but I’ve come to accept that. I’ve made several long-term attempts in the past to live elsewhere, and none of them took.

      -David

      1. I love that David. Me too… It reminds me of the Book Begniners Mind by Suzuki which I read often. It’s actually a cool place to be if we don’t try to get anywhere. 💖

      2. I am with you there David. 🙂

        And to comment on my own comment re Viktor Frankl: The Answers that may or may not arrive in the land of unknowing cannot be preached – they can only be shared, if that. As for the suffering of children, I have been very fortunate in teh case of a few social work clients to get adult survivors to see themselves as children having survived on childlike sense of wonder, just hypothesising. It worked. NOt by way of my skill though.

  10. Whether there is a God or not is an interesting question, but does not affect my responsibilities as a human being. I am only responsible to do what is in my power to do… to be an ethical person, to treat others as I wish to be treated, and to do all I can to make the world a better place. I am not responsible for the beliefs of others, only to respect their right to believe what they choose.

    Interesting essay, David, and thought-provoking. 🙂 All the best!

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