• Who’s to blame for my troubles?

    Man with his head in his hands
    Why me? (Photo by Sholto Ramsay)

    Responsibility in an indifferent universe: it’s been a cause of anguish ever since we became conscious beings. I get that. It’s virtually the reason religion exists.

    But that recurring image of the wailing mother in a war zone – the one newsreels show on repeat – is one we all feel sorrow for. Oh course we do. Why? Because she is the victim of random tragedy.

    If I shape my world…then what?

    But flip things for a second. Don’t we all grow up being told – believing – that the better person I am, the better the world will treat me? Isn’t that hardwired into us? That’s the moral baseline.

    If I act in a certain way – positively, assertively, without anger, compassionately, altruistically – that will come back to me in a more content, more fulfilled life, right?

    (I suppose one answer is that such actions simply improve your quality of life, barring random tragedy or an act of God, depending on your belief.)

    If that is our hardwired positive, what does our subconscious make of tragedy? Does it need meaning too? If it does, what answers are there in the dark recesses of the mind?

    It’s your fault

    If something bad happens, is it just the tipping point of too many bad thoughts or deeds? And even if there’s no God doing the scolding, do trivial bad or negative actions lead to a situation where more bad can happen to you?

    Obviously, these dark recesses are sometimes not so hidden. Remember Glenn Hoddle and his weird hypothesis on people with disabilities? How many of the devoutly religious harbour similar instincts?

    For those without the comfort of religion, fully confronting the reality of an indifferent, random universe is still an uneasy place to be. But it’s useful. It might even deepen our compassion.

    That’s my thought for the day. What got me started? Charles Foster’s weird and wonderful Being A Beast: An intimate and radical look at nature