What would it take to understand your partner? Suppose we’re talking about your wife, and she explains that she came from a large family where she had to care for her younger siblings and her mother was always busy and the father was never there. It may give you some insight into some aspects of her character. The more detail she explained her situation, and her feelings, the more you would understand her.
In order to really understand her though you would have to have had similar experiences. This may enable you to have empathy with her, and the more similar your experiences the more you would be able to understand. But of course we not simply a result of our upbringing. Two people could give a similar narrative but turn out very differently. In order to really understand you would have to have been in her shoes, to experience what she did.
Now suppose that was possible. Suppose that for an instant you could be her. The experience may be for a fraction of a second but the repercussions would last a lifetime.
It’s said the when people take LSD the drug is in the brain for only a few seconds, but the effects can last a lifetime.
Now imagine that you experienced the tragic life of someone. A drug addict who is on the streets. The experience would be difficult but the understanding you would get would be immense. In fact, sometimes people who have lived such a life realise the incredible opportunity to learn that they have had.
Now, for a moment, get rid of your assumptions about this life being all that there is. We are on an infinite journey and our time on Earth is like a fraction of a second on that journey. The experience of the lifetime — even the tragic experience of the drug addict — is a blink of an eye.
But then we get the Atheists who ask: why do bad things happen when God is all good? Surely, they say, if there are experiences to be learnt then couldn’t God have simply implanted the knowledge in our minds so we don’t need to go through the experience? But we can see that the in order to understand completely, we have to experience completely. In the life of the universe it has simply been implanted in our minds, it just that it was implanted in minute detail so we can understand it completely.
There’s another aspect to understanding, which is that in order to understand something, we have to understand its opposite. To understand good we have to understand evil. In order to understand contentment we have to understand pain. In order to understand love we have to understand — not hate, but indifference. Someone who comes from a family where the parents were indifferent and emotionally cold would understand this. Our experiences on Earth is that understanding.
By Philip Braham on .