Thoughts On The Loss Of Life In Minnesota

As we say goodbye to those lost in Minnesota, I celebrate their lives and I honor their memories. Today, I accept what I can know and I know what I can accept. In that harmony, I am humbled by both the beauty and the immense uncertainty of the human condition.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Tragedy elicits many responses…often automatic reactions that we rarely seek to understand…and that is as it should be given the shocking nature of the assault upon our psyche and the overwhelming grief that will certainly follow.

As I watched the unfolding of the bridge collapse in Minnesota and the devastation that will undoubtedly accompany the sudden loss of vibrant lives, I began to think about the function of faith and the impact of a belief in god during such moments of distress.

As a person who grew up closely affiliated with Catholicism…but no longer believes in any conventional construct of god…I often reflect upon the differences between my reactions to tragedy then and now. Before expanding on these thoughts, let me first provide some background information.

Several years back, I found myself in the midst of a difficult situation…one of those moments where one is uncertain how one will be able to survive the magnitude of the event…a period of time we’ve all experienced where we feel that our ability to hold our lives together is being challenged.

As I was lying in bed, unable to relax and enduring waves of anxiety along with rapid fluctuations of being hot and cold, I found myself praying for god to intervene…something I suspect we’ve all done and a practice that can often bring comfort.

Suddenly, out of the blue, I became angry with myself and what I perceived to be a pattern of living that no longer resonated and, more importantly, no longer brought comfort. There I was, asking god’s help and feeling helpless and I just stopped. Instantly, I vowed to stop praying, to stop relying upon an external mechanism to save me from my moments of despair…to begin to accept the nature of this human existence, and to find the strength to endure…on my own.

Thus began my journey away from faith and towards facing the complexities of life more bravely and without the need to invoke the assistance of a higher being. It’s important that I explain my thought process. My decision wasn’t born of anger with the god I had believed in for many years. In fact, I felt ashamed for having asked god’s help so often and I tried to imagine him as a friend whose role had become little more than the comforter…the go to guy that everyone calls upon in times of trouble…and I decided it was wrong and that it must cease.

Over time, I came to believe that in letting go of god, I had actually become a better person…and if he did exist, my actions better honored the friendship and kinship he had provided. I accepted responsibility for my life…regardless of its origin or its inevitable end…and I faced both with a resolve to avoid the instinct to succumb to fear.

In doing so, I feel certain that if there is a god, I am finally living as he would have wanted…exercising my free will and finding harmony with the random nature of the world in which I live…all the while accepting that mortality is part of this wondrous journey.

Coming back to the disaster in Minnesota, both now with my new perspective, as well as back then with my prior beliefs, I find great sadness in the loss of life…but it has taken on a new meaning for me. While the pain is the same, I understand and accept that the life we know and live here on this earth is a sacred gift…regardless of how it was received…that must be celebrated…and even though it comes to an end…for us and for those we love…it lives on if we live it well…and finally, when we leave this life with grace, it has no doubt been well lived and will certainly be well remembered.

As we say goodbye to those lost in Minnesota, I celebrate their lives and I honor their memories. Today, I accept what I can know and I know what I can accept. In that harmony, I am humbled by both the beauty and the immense uncertainty of the human condition.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007 by Daniel DiRito |
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