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.