Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

  

  When I first posed this question to people via Twitter and Facebook, those who responded tended to dwell on the issue of “Good vs. Evil”. This argument is all-and-good but is a bit of a deviation to the question why these things happen in the first place and looks instead into the semantics of the question. Why are bad things happening to those who are good? This is the argument that we will focus on, refraining from any debate of good and evil.

  From our western perspective, it is obvious though language that we have certain expectations for those who are generally good-natured. We have commonly-used phrases such as, “Why do the good die young” and “Why do nice guys finish last”. In a judicial sense, we condemn those who we perceive as evil to prison and even to death. So regardless of the argument the reader would like to make over the perception of good and evil, we have certain societal structures that punish and praise based on the perception of good and evil. Due to society being made up of individuals, there is at least some fundamental structure from which the societal structure came from.

   These expectations of expecting the good to be rewarded, extend past people and into the world itself. We want the world be in line with our own moral beliefs and reflect our perceptions of good.But there is a reason why natural disasters are called such; a disaster is defined as “an event or fact that has unfortunate consequences”. ‘Unfortunate’ in itself holds certain expectations of undesirability, and thus has gone past neutral into the realm of the unfavorable The world is not in line with our expectations and is uncaring at best, and if you take a look at the idea in nature of “Survival of the Fittest”; if only the strong survive then the weak will be weeded out through lack of food, water, or  lack of adaptability. The world from this point goes far beyond uncaring to hostile.

   This is the situation mankind is in: We have particular expectations of the world and the people around us, but the world, being uncaring and hostile, will only rarely reflect those expectations. So the reason why bad things happen to good people is random and people are forced to be exposed to the inherent randomness of the world through existence in the physical world. This conclusion, not only grim but empty, feels insufficient. It leaves a bitter aftertaste when thinking it over and it’s because of our expectation that the world should be caring and understanding.

French-Algerian philosopher and writer Albert Camus characterizes this situation as the “Absurd”. Albert Camus defines the Absurd in
The Myth of Sisyphus as being “born out of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.” In an attempt to bring this situation to conclusion, Albert Camus suggested three ways to deal with the Absurd: Suicide, Religion, and Acceptance. Suicide is a logical conclusion as it removes the existence which cause the problem of the absurd, but suicide is ultimately a cowardly solution and only shows those who still live that life is not worth living. Religion can be seen in a similar vein; finding religion in the Absurd, means replacing the uncaring and cold reality with one that is more satisfying to one’s expectations. Albert Camus called this leap of faith “Philosophical Suicide”, and ultimately determined there is only one proper way to deal with the absurd: acceptance.

  Acceptance, in this case is more than acknowledging the absurd, it is waking up happy despite knowing that the world doesn’t care whether or not you wake up at all. In being human, you will continue looking for purpose in life despite it, but you can be happy in your pursuit. In accepting the absurd, you become free to decide for yourself the purpose of the life around you. In accepting the absurd you become an individual free to choose his own destiny.

  To accept the randomness that is inherent to the world and to go against our human belief of there being purpose in this world, is to accept the absurdity of the human-condition. This would mean one would believe that the world is a cold and lifeless place that doesn’t care whether or not you exist  and would mean that there is no predetermined fate or destiny for one to achieve. If left to that conclusion one would easily come to evaluate their own life as worthless and kill themselves. Only in acceptance of the Absurd situation does one open themselves up to happiness and the freedom to do as they please. One would come to realize realize that even though the world is devoid of hope, it is filled with passion. And in pursuing passion, they will experience the most wholehearted life.

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34 thoughts on “Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

      • A few recent experiments have seemed to demonstrate that the mood or attitude of the observer may affect the outcome in the physical world. A Japanese crystal formation experiment in specific. ;o)

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    • I’d like an explanation of what this claim is even trying to say, if I may… Science is made up primarily of failures and being shown we were wrong; how one could find omnipotence there is beyond me.
      If rather you mean to say that we revolt against the absurd through science, then you are actually just making Camus’ point. Certain individuals have found their life of passion pursuing physics, chemistry, and so on, but others have found the same passion outside of science entirely, perhaps through art or through sport.

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      • Science is more about exposing points of failure to observe or understand. The claim is that “good luck” is more likely to be enjoyed by those who believe themselves to be lucky, or “blessings come to those who believe they are blessed.” Oh, as a physicist, by degree, a poet by practice, and an aspiring golfer by pretense, I can assure you that it is all science. ;o)

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        • As both a mathematician and philosopher by degree and practice, I can assure you that these claims are actually philosophical, possibly crossing paths with psychology, but still strongly philosophy of mind.

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  1. Good article and perspective, although I would argue that there can be rich philosophical underpinnings to religious belief if one is inclined to explore them that I would say have more depth than, “philosophical suicide” gives it credit for. The religious concepts of free will and the purification that suffering can provide are not necessarily trite concepts that ignore evil and suffering, but rather an embrace and acceptance of it while looking for the good that can come from it while recognizing that some things can’t be explained in this lifetime. I won’t carry on forever on the topic, but for those inclined I took an attempt at the discourse from a Christian perspective at https://gymnasiumsite.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/tragedies-and-a-chaotic-and-evil-world-a-laymans-spiritual-perspective/

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  2. Great post! I’ll definitely have to look you up on Twitter. I would’ve loved to get in on your question. IMHO, bad things happen to good people, to create the need for a better way. No one would care if examples were only made out of bad people. Keep wondering, the answer is out there. #NOTHINGMatters

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  3. Great post Austin!
    I hold a similar view and have had various heated arguments with people around me on this topic.
    The philosophy of Albert Camus, particularly the three ways of dealing with absurd is simply amazing.
    Very pertinent. 🙂

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  4. A long time ago, I came to the conclusion that it’s not a kind world or a cruel world–it just IS. One isn’t rewarded by an omnipotent being for being a good person; the reward is knowing one did the right thing–by one’s moral standards.
    I make the most of the here and now. No one knows what may lie ahead.
    Great, thought provoking post.

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    • True, but also, since we are part of the world, and we have this inherent expectation that things will be good to us, the world appears inherently somewhat cruel or nice to us depending on our fortune.

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  5. A good piece that makes you think about the question we all would like to know the answer to!Although, I disagree that one can live devoid of hope and yet have passion. Maybe it’s just my perspective but where would one draw passion from, if we knew that, in effect, our actions meant nothing and there was no hope to make some sort of change, small or big, in this world? In my humble opinion, the faith that good still exists and that the randomness just knocks you down to test your faith, could be one possible explanation 🙂

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  6. Thanks for sharing this awesome post, it is inspiring. And thank you for following my blog and it is very meaningful for me as I’m just started to share my words in this fantastic platform. Keep it up, can’t wait to read more about your posts about philosophy and your thoughts about them.

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  7. This makes me think of a couple things. The Existentialists, I think Camus in particular, used to use the word “capricious” a lot to describe the universe, if I remember correctly. The idea that you can live without hope and still have passion reminds me of the term “hopeless optimism” which I once heard someone use to describe their attitude toward life.

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  8. I love this post. I read it a few times over, just to let it properly soak in. I don’t have any debate-worthy comments other than I loved the topic and your thoughts on the subject. Acceptance. I’ll work on that for now 🙂 x

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  9. Austin, this is really quite good. It has spurred a lot of thought in my mind as this is a question I grapple with frequently. I’m going to read it again, and I expect a blog post of my own will come from it. Thanks for giving my mind and soul a little exercise today.

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  10. As other people have said, life is a highly personal experience and we cannot separate from that fact. It can therefore be very hard to understand that there are no good or bad events, just the way we approach them that colours our perceptions and therefore how we react. Also, thanks for following my blog :).

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  11. Pingback: The Shoes I Travel In | Writings By Ender

  12. Hey there! I’ve been following your weblog
    for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you
    a shout out from Austin Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the good job!

    Like

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