Rod relates a heartrending story of a family wiped out, or nearly so, on what should have been the happiest of days. “I do believe in God, but stories like this are the best reason I can think of to disbelieve,” he says.
There’s an all too easy answer to the question of why bad things happen to innocent people — the evils of his world, great as they seem in the light of our mortal lives, are nothing compared to whatever reward (or punishment) awaits in the next. The immortality of the soul and the scale of eternity can erase any transient suffering in this life, or so the logic goes. But this is cold comfort, and the reason it’s cold comfort raises a more difficult question. The things that matter to us are all limited and mortal; our knowledge and experience of them occurs only within the parameters of mortal, earthly existence. An immortal, unearthly existence, whatever else can be said for it, is not one that much resembles the world or people we love in our fragile, time-bound lives. The joys of reunion with lost loved ones in the afterlife are some solace to grieving families in the here and now, but the more the mind considers a different plane of existence in an entirely different context from the one we know, where even the self has lost the horizon of experience, the less appealing it becomes.