Supernatural Soothing (Part 2 of 2)

Conclusion of yesterday’s column.

A lot of times, unhappy or overstressed people will think, ‘Why did this happen to me? Life isn’t fair!’ The thought can be in response to something horrendous and tragic, or to nothing more than a frustrating day. A rational person can truly offer no answer other than, ‘This is just how it is.’ Don’t try to read meaning into what simply ‘is.’

Some things just are what they are. The challenge is to figure out how to cope with them. Maybe the negatives can even be turned into positives. Explanations are certainly valuable, but, ultimately, solutions are more important. Asking questions for which there’s no possible answer—’Why do bad things happen to good people?’—is a recipe for psychological paralysis.

When reflecting, people often ask themselves or others: ‘Why does God allow these things to happen?’ The premise is widely accepted that there is a God. A reasonable reply is: ‘I don’t know. You’d have to ask God. My concern, in the here and now, is what YOU’RE going to do about it.’ This is more than a mere shifting of responsibility back to the person who asked the question; it’s also an attempt to assert that the mind is efficacious, that the universe is rational and, using the proper methods, discoveries can be made to help solve problems. Thinking this way is the only way to build emotional ‘muscle.’

Most people have an interesting dichotomy when it comes to this issue. They subscribe to reason and objective reality when it comes to business, science, and the ‘practical’ matters of life. But when it comes to more personal and emotional concerns, such as relationships, family, and inner growth, they escape towards the mystical.

There’s a lot of this in Hollywood and the music industry, for example, where actors/musicians rely upon and benefit from the very latest in technology (made possible by human reasoning, not supernaturalism), yet, at the same time, endorse supernatural and New Age approaches to diet, living, reincarnation, etc.

Indeed, an increasing number of Americans appear to be turning to New Age, supernatural and mystical approaches, not as a means of balancing the checkbook or selling a house, but as a means of putting life into perspective and coping with mortality. (Of course, more Americans of the traditional mindset are asserting the supernaturalism, myth and mysticism of good old-fashioned religion, as well.)

The problem with all this is the dichotomy, and even the hypocrisy, of it all. Many people in the advanced, secularized society of the United States rely upon and enjoy all the benefits of a modern society in which the activities of science and business—grounded in human reason and practicality—make the world go around. Yet, when it comes to coping and finding purpose or ‘meaning’ in life, they turn in exactly the opposite direction: To the supernatural.

It can take two forms (not all that much different from one another): New Age and the latest religious fads, as with Hollywood and the liberal ‘blue states’; or fundamentalist Christianity, holding sway over many conservatives in the ‘red states,’ and starring caricatures of the various televangelists—their multimillion dollar empires elevating panhandling and begging to a high art.

Both the religious right and the New Age left call their brand of coping ‘spiritualism.’ They fight over ideological influence and even political power. On the surface, they’re enemies, but they share one very important and profoundly fundamental premise: The idea that reason and objective reality—while they might apply to the ‘practical world’—in no way apply to the inner, psychological or ‘personal world.’

Whether it’s somebody humbly trudging to a prayer meeting in the middle of Nebraska, or a bored Hollywood actress trying to divine dead loved ones in her extravagant Beverly Hills home, both are trying to escape beyond the realm of human reason, futilely searching for answers to questions that are forever rooted in flawed premises.

Reasonable people take a practical, problem-solving approach to both personal and professional endeavors. They don’t look for ghosts, miracles and vaguely defined ‘meaning’ based on myths and folklore. They look for real world solutions. They don’t stare, glassy-eyed, at the latest televangelist du jour, wondering, ‘What’s it all about?’

Instead, they look within themselves to make their lives on earth as happy, comfortable, and fulfilling as possible. They welcome challenge and ambition. And, interestingly enough, the good feelings that emerge from improving, succeeding and learning to develop their talents will grant them the true ‘spirituality’ that the Bible thumpers and hocus-pocus psychic followers only dream about.

Singer/composer Stevie Wonder said it best in his hit song ‘Superstition’: ‘When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer, superstition ain’t the way!’