No Easy Answers

I attended a concert a couple of weeks ago and a song I heard got me thinking.  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but each time I heard it, it moved me more.  The composer, Austin Willacy[1], shared with the audience that he wrote the song for his aunt after her husband and daughter passed away in the same year.  Below you’ll find the words to the chorus of the song “Show Your Face.”

I want God to show his face
To everyone
I want to see to whom I pray
Just this once
I won’t ask it everyday
Let me see you
Or do you only hear me when
I’m on my knees

When confronted with the tough situations of those around us, it is natural to want to provide answers.  People ask where is God, why did this happen, how am I supposed to keep believing what I did before?  We want to be there, to give the perfect answer, assure them and sometimes ourselves as well.  My first piece of advice is to stop and think before speaking.

Thinking of these things on my own, in the abstract, I sometimes slip into “school mode.”  In other words, I try and use my academic training to address the problem.  However, discussing Max Weber’s understanding of the relationship between theodicy, universalization of religious systems, and rationalization, is worse than useless in a real life situation.  Likewise, reflecting on the nature of the universe and ethicists who argue that the world has to be this way in order for free will both in human action and belief to exist will probably do more harm than good.  There is a time and a place for those conversations, but I would argue that time is not the immediate.

My advisor and my uncle were both diagnosed with cancer around the same time in 2008, and they passed away within a month and a half of each other.  What helped me through that time were not the philosophical and theological postulates that I’ve heard, read, and developed, but spending time with those who shared their lives with my advisor and my uncle and people who cared about me as well.  It has been said to me that the first thing we have to do when discussing theodicy is that ultimately, every theodicy falls short.  The best thing to do in those situations is to be with the people who are hurting.  You don’t have to have the answers, or even any words.  Austin may have written “Show Your Face” for his aunt, but almost all of the verses contain the phrase “to anyone who’s lost ________.”  In my view he has taken up the voice of those who are hurting and lonely, and we should follow his example by reminding people they are not alone.


[1] Austin Willacy has seen this text and given permission for the posting of his lyrics and the personal narrative.


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