Book Review – When Bad Things Happen to Good People – Harold S. Kushner


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Life is full of good and bad moments. We desire to be happy but sometimes few tragedies hurt us a lot. Life offers both pain and pleasure. When bad incidents happen and that too at a sudden, we are ruined from inside. Often there are many of us who might have done good to many but have faced bad moments. When we are good, we expect life to be good to us but when life hurt us despite of being good in life, few questions come in our mind: Why this happened to me and Why bad things happen to good people? In the classis book titled “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”, the author, Harold S. Kushner provides some good insights about the general feeling of humans and also tries to figure out the answer to the above questions.

The Background: Harold Kushner wrote this book dedicated to his son, Aaron who was detected with the disease “Progeria”, rapid aging. Aaron was only three years old when he was diagnosed with Progeria and would maximum continue till his early teens. Aaron died two days after his 14th birthday. Kushner was a rabbi, and it was very difficult for him to digest this incident of knowing his son would die at early teens due to a rare disease, Progeria. All his life, Kushner did good, helped many people and was always ready to any social cause. The untimely demise of his son made him to think on the notion of God, whether this was the punishment given by God to good people and that too in the form of his son’s death. The author had brilliantly provided very argumentative analysis about God and his notions that most of us perceive. The choice of good and bad and whether it is the God who is responsible for all the happenings in this world including happening of bad things to good people. This makes the book a very interesting read.

About the Author

Harold Samuel Kushner is a prominent rabbi and author. Born on 3rd April 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, he graduated from Columbia University and have received six honorary doctorates. He is best known for his books, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981) and When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough (1986).

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When Bad Things Happen to Good People is his best-selling book which he wrote following the premature death of his son, Aaron due to Progeria.  In 2007, Harold Kushner was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Jewish Book Council.

About the Book

When Bad Things Happen to Good People was published in 1981. As mentioned earlier, Kushner wrote this book in memory of his son, Aaron. The book is a very good read which deals about human sufferings, God, Omnipotence and theodicy.

Throughout the book, the author has raised many questions about God and why bad things happen to good people. When good people suffer any turmoil which makes their life difficult to live, people starts asking below questions:

  • Why did this happen to me?
  • Do I deserve to be treated like this?
  • Is this a kind of punishment that God offers to his followers?
  • What did I do that I deserve this?
  • How God can be so cruel to give punishment to innocent people, for wrongdoing of others?

The book provides a very good discussion on the above questions. The initial chapters will make readers to think that what we have been taught about God and his doings including running of this universe will seems to be only an attractive answer. The author had brilliantly provided argumentative analysis about God and his limitations. Reader may think about the general perceived notion of “what we get is what we deserve”, if it is really the case.

The idea that God gives people what they deserve, that our misdeeds cause or misfortune, is neat and attractive solution of problem of evil at several levels, but it has a number of serious limitations. It teaches people to blame themselves. It creates guilt even when there is no basis for guilt. It makes people to hate God, even as it makes them hate themselves. And most disturbing of all, it does not even fit the facts.

There is good discussion on the sufferings of righteous person and a wicked person. There are so many examples from author’s life journey where he has given a good insights about the sufferings of many like, parents losing their children, living with multiple sclerosis, accidents, retarded children etc. It might be true that sometimes we have to do painful things to people we love for their benefit, but not every painful thing that happens to us is beneficial.

The author has provided a good argument on why God will create sufferings to the people in order to learn compassion and gratitude? Why should God distort someone else’s life to such a degree in order to enhance our spiritual sensitivity? Such kind of questions and arguments provided in response to those questions makes this book a beautiful read.

There are few incidents which happens accidently and blaming God for those is not a good thing, as per the author. According to Kushner, the accidents, plane crash, train accidents, falling off a bridge etc. are not the punishments provided by God. If that is so, then this mean God is selective. He is selective because if the plane crashed and killed many passengers and few only got injured and few got minor injuries, the outcome is not uniform and what about those passengers who missed the flight? So the person who missed the flight should thank God for not boarding the flight because his life was safe? And what about those who boarded the flight on time? Such kind of examples and arguments will make you think for a while, after reading the book. God is not selective, sometimes there is no reason. These events do not reflect God’s choices. They happen at random, and randomness is another name of chaos.

God has made this universe and the law of nature is uniform and there is no discrepancy in it. One of the things that makes the world livable is the fact that the laws of nature are precise and reliable and always work the same way. Everything has some pros and cons, and this has been discussed so well in this book. We cannot live without gravity but at the same need to live with its dangers. Harold Kushner provides answer to the cause of bad things happening to good people. God is the creature of universe and law of nature which is uniform, and God does not reach down to interrupt the workings of laws of nature to protect the righteous from harm: this is an area which causes bad things to happen to good people and God does not cause it and cannot stop it. One should read the book for such interesting discussion.

Often it is said that it is the environment, upbringing and people suffering which makes them cruel and futile. Some becomes criminal and some kills many innocent people. People become like that because they are the victims of circumstances. Kushner had provided a very crucial point on this notion in the below excerpt:

To say of Hitler, to say of any criminal, that he did not choose to be bad but was a victim of his upbringing, is to make all morality, all discussion of right and wrong, impossible. It leaves unanswered the question of why people in similar circumstances did not all become Hitlers. But worse, to say “It is not his fault, he was not free to choose” is to rob a person of his humanity, and reduce him to the level of an animal who is similarly not free to choose between right and wrong.

Why people in similar circumstances did not all become Hitlers? An unanswered question. Read the book for more such mind blogging discussions. The author has given a good insights on sufferings in the book and he recommends not to compound the damage which one got because of sufferings by hurting oneself one more time or several times.

Instead of asking the questions, “why this happened to me? What did I do to deserve this?” The better question would be, “Now this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?”

As mentioned earlier, the initial chapters would make readers to question about God and what he does to us in the form of sufferings and punishments. But the concluding chapters takes the readers to know about God and what religion should be. This journey has been presented beautifully by Harold Kushner in this book. The book is a journey from asking the question, “Why this happened to me? “ to asking the question , “Now this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?”

A good book which deserves to be read, if not read so far.

-Ashish Kumar

Corona Virus – Pandemic


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World is under clouds of coming depression.
Mankind is currently facing stiff corona situation.
The battle between death and survival.
Featuring the startling pandemic arrival.
Arrival of a deadly disease across the globe.
Corona virus has shattered all the hope.
Who will survive nobody knows?
How many will die we rarely know?
Let’s be alert in our day to life.
To make Corona die.
It’s a pandemic we must realize.
Follow the lock-down in order to survive.
Being impatient will never serve the corona battle.
On the contrary, it won’t allow corona to settle.
There are many who carry the “hubris” attitude.
It’s time to bury such “debris” attitude.
Pandemic occurs rarely but shatters many.
Bringing clouds of fear, depression and many.
Let’s pray to almighty to normalize the current scenario.
Mankind must stand again to bring another portfolio.
Awareness, alertness and discipline are required in this pandemic.
Everyone should come together and not panic.
We can win this battle of corona jointly.
This cannot be curbed personally.
Some are playing filthy regional and religious politics.
They must remember…
The virus attacks without caste, creed, region and religion.
Everyone should unite…
Irrespective of their caste, creed, region and religion.

– Ashish Kumar

One has to go


Sooner or later, one has to go.
Why to waste time to satisfy useless ego?
Live and let live should be the motto.
Powered by motivation and inspiration, one should go.
Love the beauty of nature which is ultimate.
Learn from nature as it is your mate.
Death is the ultimate truth.
Accept it and don’t lie.
Why to fear as we have to die.

Body is waste after death.
Good deeds are the only thing left.
The return of your deeds will pay you one day.
Sooner or later you will enjoy that day.
Life is short and uncertain.
Good deeds will be remembered for certain.
Stay positive, focused and then grow.
Sooner or later, you will glow.
Love life and enjoy every moment.
Every moment is indeed a present.
As…
Sooner or later, one has to go.
Why to waste time to satisfy useless ego?

– Ashish Kumar

नीती में राजनीति |


वहाँ जल रहे हैं अरमान रात और दिन.
वो कहते हैं की करेंगे काम एक दिन.
यहाँ हर जगह अंधियारा है.
अंदर और बाहर कष्टों का बसेरा है.
क्या करेंगे लोग इस बहार में.
यहाँ लोग जी रहें आँसुओं की बहार में .
जल गये शमशान मे लुटा के सब कुछ.
सब खो दिया अब बचा नही कुछ.
यहाँ कदम कदम पर उन्नति की बात होती है.
नेता अभिनेता बन कर अपनी रोटियाँ सेक्ते हैं.
और लोग आँसुओं से दिए जला कर जीते हैं.
नीति तो बनी पर उसपे राजनीति क्यूँ हुई.
ऐसी इस्थति पैदा ही क्यूँ हुई???

वो कहते हैं ग़रीबी हटाएँगे.
खुशहाली और मुस्कुराहट लाएँगे.
जो रोशनी मे जीते हैं उन्हे अंधेरा कैसे समझ आएगा?
रोटी ना मिलने का दर्द कैसे पता चल पाएगा?
जिन पर बीती है उनसे पूछो भूख क्या होती है.
बिना सब्ज़ी के पानी से रोटी कैसे खाते हैं?
हद तो तब होती है जब पानी भी ना मिले.
भूख मिटाने को…
आँसू के साथ ही रोटी खा लेते हैं.
आज़ाद तो हो गये पर आज़ादी मिली कहाँ?
भूख से मरते हुए अब भी हैं लोग यहाँ.
हर गली, नुक्कड़ चौराहों पर नज़र डालो.
कुछ वक़्त निकाल कर ज़रा इन्हे भी संभलो.
देख रहा हूँ मैं ये नज़ारा कई वर्षों से.
हर रोज़ लोग मरते हैं भूख से.
इतने वादे इतने कदम कहाँ रह जाते हैं.
समझ नहीं आता ये भूख से लोग मरते ही जाते हैं.
इन्हें कपड़े नहीं हैं तन ढकने को.
ठंड से तिठुरते…
ढक लेते है पेट अपने पाँव से.
नीति बनाने वालो कहाँ है वो नीति?
सच तो ये है…
यहाँ नीति मे राजनीति चलती है.
पिसते हैं बुज़ुर्ग और गारीद पर इनकी रोटियाँ सिकटी हैं.
दुख होता ये जान कर.
नीति तो बनी पर उसपे राजनीति क्यूँ हुई.
ऐसी इस्थति पैदा ही क्यूँ हुई???

– Ashish Kumar

Solitude – Pleasure or pain?



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Solitude is one the situations which often makes or break confidence, relations, mindset, perception etc. It is the state or situation where one feels alone or lonely. Human nature wants to be known and admired and solitude is just opposite where one finds himself to be detached from everyone. The reason of being felt lonely can be many like not getting what desired, love failure, introvert nature, jealousy etc. The repercussion of solitude is sometimes harsh even leading to suicidal death which is startling and extreme. One of the main consequences of solitude is that people lose hope and get depressed. Losing hope is that state where one finds nothing positive for himself and negative vibes starts accumulating in mind.

Feeling of loneliness is not new and one feels lonely several times in life. Some of the common reasons behind solitude are love failure, failure in innovating something new, break up in the relationships etc. If you are a song lover, you might have came across many songs which are solely based on solitude. When people fail in love, they think they are nowhere and they are the one who finds themselves the loneliest person in world. When someone resigns from his job because he doesn’t liked it, it also gives a lonely feeling till he finds a suitable job as per his interest. When there is a misunderstanding which leads to fight between family members and all are members are against you, solitude again finds a place. There are many other circumstances where one encounters solitude in his/her life. All these are part of life and should be taken as an experience.

Life has many aspects and solitude or feeling of loneliness is one of them which can be a pleasure or pain. Surprised to see how it can be a pleasure? Yes it can be a pleasure if one takes this as an opportunity. Generally, people consider solitude as a pain. It is a pain if one thinks it in that way and can be a pleasure as well if you have guts to convert that pain into pleasure which is difficult but not impossible. One should think in a different way and should take solitude as an opportunity. Solitude is that situation where one finds himself to be detached from rest of the world.  When you are detached, you have enough time to think and rejuvenate yourself. Surprised??? Solitude gives you a chance to talk to yourself what we call as introspection and introspection leads to creativity and innovation. When you introspect, you are able to find the loopholes and can start from scratch or can find the better way round which can give fruitful results. Solitude also gives you the chance to know your inner strength, how strong you are and how you are going to manage trying circumstances. All these counts and makes you much stronger than before. Converting solitude into an opportunity is difficult but not impossible. Solitude indeed gives you a chance to prove yourself and come back with smiling face post debacle, if any.  The only thing matter is how one takes this situation, either positive or negative. Choice has to be made.

It takes time to get rid of the bad moments where one finds himself detached but should not allow prolong accumulation of negative vibes which ultimately leads to depression and frustration. Take time and start as nothing lasts forever.  If you keeps on thinking and thinking on what happened in past or past bad memories then how you will live in present and how will you secure your future? In my opinion, solitude is neither a disaster nor a debacle;  it’s a part of our life. Life has many layers, both good and bad. I too have been in solitude several times and was able to tackle which was a nice experience. Experience again is very important in life, both positive and negative which makes you a strong person which helps you in decision making. Remember one thing, if you feel lonely because of absence of people around you, your conscience and confidence still remains within you which are capable enough to convert negative into positive. What I would convey is take solitude not as a burden but spent some time and think and come back with smiling face. Lastly, I would like to share one of the famous quotes of Bob Marley.

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.

Bob Marley

 

– Ashish Kumar