Just by Chance

Just by Chance by Emmie Wolf-Dubin - Photo by Sonja Lippmann

Recently I’ve been contemplating a few cataclysmic events in my life and in my world. These events have led me to question one thing that has always been a staple of my childhood: The existence of God.

Religion has always played a big part of my life. Whether that be through my grandmother, a religious leader, or my father, or my mother, or my sister, it has always been there as a sort of comfort and an outlet for advice. That being said, the question of whether or not there’s an overarching being has never really been talked about. No one in my life has ever tried to force their beliefs on me and, up until recently, even asked me the question: Do you believe in God?

Previous to said cataclysmic events of the past years, I would have given a simple answer:

No. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in God in the sense of Adam and Eve or the Exodus or the 10 Commandments. But I do believe in a celestial being. I believe that things happen for a reason; that things are beautiful because they should be; because it’s simply by design.

And then COVID hit.

All around me, people were getting sick. I saw people dying. My own friends were orphaned and widowed and became widowers.

And then the wars raged at home and overseas. They were political and physical.

Families lost touch. My entire country has fallen victim to partisanship and bias.

Me? I lost no one. I lost a year of my life and then some. But I would take that over a true sense of grief any day.

But as I watched destruction reign all around me, hatred dominate humanity’s mind, and horrific bloodlust and powerlust dominate the political stage, I found myself questioning this ideal I’d always held so true.

Is this all happening for a reason? And if this is all happening for a reason, what reason could possibly justify death? Would that make God evil? Is there truly any rhyme or reason to the workings of the universe? Is it possible that there is no afterlife or greater purpose or punishment for the wicked? Is it possible that, after all of our collective religious deliberations, there is no God?

I got what I perceive to be my answer earlier today when I arrived in a mystical land called Oakland, California. I’ve come here every year except last. My mother took me to UC Berkeley where she graduated.

We met with one of her oldest friends, ate Thai food, moved our car, and then ate frozen yogurt. We drove to my mom’s old sorority. Several ambulances whizzed by. Because we didn’t want to be in their way, we went left instead of right. Then another ambulance whizzed by us as we drove up a hill. We decided unanimously that we should keep driving. After all, it’s a narrow road back there and if there are a lot of cars, we could be waiting a while.

We wound up driving all the way up to the top of the hill which, mind you, is quite high. I insisted that we stop, swearing that we could see all the way to San Francisco from there. My parents were skeptical. I wasn’t sure, either, if I’m being honest. It’d been years since I’d been to San Francisco.

But there it was.

The Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Treasure Island, downtown San Francisco, and the beautiful glittering water with boats littered about carelessly, as if splattered paint on a filled canvas.

If we hadn’t met my mother’s friend or we hadn’t gone to their favorite Thai restaurant or moved our car or gotten fro-yo or or gone to see my mom’s old sorority, then we might’ve left earlier. And if we’d left earlier, then we probably wouldn’t have seen those ambulances, causing us to take a detour. And if we hadn’t taken that detour, then we wouldn’t have been led to that magnificent vista that I’m still unsure wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

Upon going back to that moment, looking out on things I’ve held dear in only memories, I’ve realized that I had decided one thing:

Yes, I believe that some form of God is real. God is in the works of science, the tiny decisions that we call history, the way my mom looks at my dad, the way the water glitters beneath the sunlight, and in the way we laugh together over dinner. I still do not believe in God in the sense of the Bible or the Torah or the Quran.

But I believe that everything happens for a reason, like deciding to get the frozen yogurt and walking just two more blocks. And these circumstances, when compiled, led to what is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. We may not always see it right away. Honestly, we may never see it. I don’t think I will ever be able to tell a mourner that it all happens for a reason. Instead, I will choose to hold onto these shaky ideals with the image of my Heaven in mind.

I feel that I must do so because through all the death and destruction and sickness and health and creation and life, there is one constant in the world that I thoroughly believe will never fade: There is beauty, there is hope, and there is happiness. Even if it’s all chemical reactions.

In the words of Jules Renard, “On Earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.” And oh, what wonderful pieces they are.

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