Finding meaning when things don’t make sense

By Amanda Cleary Eastep

I didn’t plan on writing about actor and comedian Robin Williams’ suicide. Lots of people already have. Lots of people who have more inspiring words to say. And it was some of those words that stuck with me.

“I’ve learned that there can be meaning without things making sense.”

flower in concrete
Photo Credit: Tristan Long★ via Compfight cc

The words were written by my favorite author Anne Lamott, who posts too-long-for–a-status thoughts on Facebook where I follow her because it makes me feel like one day she’ll see my tiny thumb up and meet me for a latte or Indian food.

Everyone is asking “why?”, often supplying the answer of “a longtime battle with depression.” That helps Williams’ suicide make sense.

But do we really want our tragedies to make sense?

I have never been able to make sense of my neighbor setting out two bags of candy–one for each child–clean towels for her husband’s shower, and no note before closing herself in the garage with the car running.

But just a few years later, I did have a clearer understanding as I lay across the seats of the marriage counselor’s waiting room, not able to care for one more minute. My depression was brought on by circumstances that I eventually clawed—and was occasionally dragged—through, so I can only imagine trying to perform beneath the weight of that fallen curtain day after day, year after year…an agony so dark that relief from the pain disguises itself as a light that beacons you to walk into it.

Wellington Sanipe

Perhaps we occupy ourselves with trying to make sense of the many tragedies around us for fear we won’t find meaning in them. Instead, we can throw up our hands and exclaim, “Senseless!” and go on about our lives until photos of Williams’ face and murdered Iraqi Christians are replaced in our Facebook feed with Dalai Lama quotes and recipes for gluten-free pancakes.

But I am compelled to search for meaning.

Maybe in a small way, searching for meaning honors those who have suffered,

maybe it deepens my faith in ultimate goodness,

and maybe it causes me to find–if not meaning–hope.

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