Certainty In Death, No Certainty In Why


When someone dies there are a lot of things to wonder about. Where did they go? Were they happy when they died? Did I adequately show them how much I loved them? Will we ever meet again?…etc….etc. But the most nagging of those wonders is the wonderful Why?

It’s probably true that there aren’t answers to why. I mean there certainly is a biological answer, in regards to my father, ALS progressed which caused his muscles and organs to degenerate leading to his inability to breathe at which point and he died (it wasn’t really that simple but you get the idea). But that’s not what I mean when I ask why? I am, essentially, appealing to God. I am searching for a reason, a motive or some type of justification.

I don’t practice or follow a religion, mostly out of ignorance not principled disagreement. But I think it is safe to say that most existential questions I pose are, although I really don’t like admitting it, aimed at an omnipotent being. A Creator. Which in the very Judeo-Christian sense would be God. I find this sort if fascinating because no one in my house ever prayed, we never said grace, I attended secular schools and yet I still appeal to God as if I believed.

I think by asking those existential questions I acknowledge that I find some desire in the narrative, of an omnipotent creator, to be true. Ideologically I don’t agree with it, largely because of my upbringing I suspect. But in so-called dire situations I appeal to that narrative, even though I don’t believe in it.

Now, I don’t think this means I believe in God, I think it is more representative of my want to believe that there is order in the world and in my life. I want there to be some way I can influence outcomes. I want to be able to appeal to a Creator for things in order to change their outcome. I want to know why my dad died, and most of all I want there to be a why, I want a reason, even though I don’t believe one exists.

Where does that leave me? It is sort of an awkward place to be emotionally to want something I don’t believe in. Wanting an explanation seems fairly normal, the seemingly quintessential human desire for certainty. But, certainty is always disappointing in some way. It never feels gratifying to “know” it’s just something that I desire because I don’t have it and “just knowing” would provide some relief, I tell myself. But in this case I don’t know what I would do if I knew why he died. Knowing this why, which in my mind is impossible, would not change his death. He would still have died.

I guess what I’m trying to understand for myself is why I am so infatuated with wanting to know why he died. I think it is totally normal thing to want to know but it is curious if knowing wouldn’t really change how I feel.

I think the God narrative may come back into play here. I think I have been taught, by who I haven’t the faintest clue, that there is a why. I think it may very well be a human inclination to believe in certainty and control. To believe that the world is understandable, if we can only break it down into its smallest pieces and understand it fundamentally it will make sense.

Although inclined to believe, I don’t. I believe in the ingenuity of humans, our ability to search, study, uncover and discover all that we have the ability to do so. There are some things that cannot really be discovered though. I, personally, believe that all meaning in the world is human prescribed. Meaning that when I go searching for the reason(s) why I am searching for something that we, or I, have created. Assigning a meaning to death is essentially like asking humans (not that any other being would be better fit to respond) to provide their own understanding of death and offer it up as fact or Truth.

I know I am wading a bit deep into my own personal philosophies here but if they don’t resonate with you I hope you at least find them entertaining.

To recap: I don’t believe there is a real or True meaning for why people die, even though I want to. Additionally, I think that all meaning whether it is about death, cuteness of puppies, stepping in the cracks in sidewalks or the arrangement of stars is comes from humans. Now let me be very clear here. My stating this does not mean that because I think meaning comes from humans that is it worth any less or is any less valid. Anything I believe in is in turn my reality and I believe the same applies to other people. Returning to my feelings about God as a relevant example. I do not believe in God, which I claim as my reality, a Godless one. But you may believe in God or gods or other spiritual beings and those are your realities that you believe in. You may, in fact, believe that your reality is True for everyone, this is where you and I differ. I claim my own reality and believe your reality is true for you. I believe you believe in God, but I don’t think your reality, mine or anyone else’s is True or valid for everyone.

In a very very round about way I’m trying to realize that what I’m searching for, why my dad died, that meaning I control. I get to prescribe that meaning to death and so searching for it seems rather silly.

Lastly to anyone who counts the number of times I wrote the words believe or reality I’ll give you a cookie.

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9 thoughts on “Certainty In Death, No Certainty In Why

  1. i’ve been having some of the same thoughts, mainly about your conclusion, the relativism. faith and belief are personal things, personal experiences, individual conclusions for each person to draw. i don’t like for people to say things to me about why it happened or what they assume i’m feeling, or where my loved ones are now and what they’re doing or how they’re feeling. i have so many questions, i wonder all the time. i know that i don’t know and there’s no way i can know. so i resent people stating things, however innocent and good intentioned, as if they’re fact. none of us know for sure, death and dying are so mysterious. so don’t intrude on the beliefs i’m formulating to make it work for me by talking as if you know. ugh, i’ve been tossing this around in my head for a while, thanks for writing this, i needed to get it out. 🙂

    • I agree, also resent when people state things (regardless of intention as you not) as if they are fact especially concerning death. Its funny to think that I don’t even really know what death is or how to explain it. That’s how subjective the meaning can be. Its tempting to define it as a wholey biological phenomena, but that denies the intangible relationships with that person that feel lost when that person dies.

      Thanks for reading i’m glad some of this resonates with someone else.

  2. “Now, I don’t think this means I believe in God, I think it is more representative of my want to believe that there is order in the world and in my life. I want there to be some way I can influence outcomes. I want to be able to appeal to a Creator for things in order to change their outcome. I want to know why my dad died, and most of all I want there to be a why, I want a reason, even though I don’t believe one exists.”
    Great post! In regards to your above quote, have you ever wondered what’s behind your wanting to believe? Maybe it’s a want we’re all born with – maybe it’s a God-given desire?

    • Thanks for reading! It may be something we are a born with or it may be a God given desire, unfortunately I don’t believe either. As noted above sometimes I wish I did, but wishing has little affect on changing my feelings.

  3. Kumar, thanks for your post. One of my friends recently experienced the relatively sudden loss of his parents, and has been struggling through figuring out the meaning. He started from (and still has) a Christian perspective, and basically asked, for a couple years, “why.” He’s still on his journey, but he’s becoming more and more comfortable with the answer “I don’t know why. Maybe there isn’t a why.” It’s interesting, though, with God or without God (or with belief in a God, or without belief in a God), we all go through (admittedly varying degrees of) bad crap, and we all try to find meaning, or Truth, or peace or understanding.

    I hope your journey leads you to peace and understanding and truth.

  4. HI Kumar, thanks for connecting tonight and for letting me read this post here—I am looking forward to our Interview dialogue coming up!! I am really blessed for having been paired with you for this project – I am thankful that you – as an adoptee and as Kumar (all other disclaimers set aside) think about these things including Adoption with as much thoroughness and depth as you do. It’s so refreshing. I also think that purpose (with a capital P and with a small p) is to be discovered in everything we do – whether we’re conscious or of it or not; just a side note from our live conversation 🙂 Yeah! Okay we’ll be connecting again soon!

    • Hey,

      Yeah I’m glad got to “hangout” even though our video project didn’t quite come to fruition, at least not yet. Yeah it is great to talk to someone who has thought about a lot if the same things, and many more, than I have! I think we should continue our discussion about purpose because I think it holds a lot of potential to open up new “paradigms” as you put it.

      Thanks for reading and well talk soon.

  5. The why questions never end – yet we will continue to seek the answer to why. The hardest why’s are when a good person leaves us too soon and if we can just figure out the why we hope we can find peace.

    I’m really sorry your dad had to suffer through ALS, the closest I’ve come is my neighbor and that was hard enough, but for it to be your dad, no words, just that the disease is incredibly tragic. I’m sorry.

    • Hey TAO,

      Thanks for reading and for your kind words. It was certainly a difficult process but mentally he seemed to be accepting and therefore less perturbed by his illness. I am sorry to hear about your neighbor, the only people I’ve met who have had it have been family members, which is partly why I began writing so I could find others who had experienced the illness.

      Thanks again for reading my posts, it means a lot.

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