I am very lucky. For some reason, the forces of the universe tend to collide in ways that favor me--isn't that all that luck is? I've heard some people say that it's not luck, it's grace, the kind of grace that comes with a capital G. I'm not so convinced. I went through a phase in middle school where I became obsessed with religion. Not in the sense that I became a big-haired bible thumper, quite the contrary, actually. I couldn't figure out why people believed, and, as with most things, I had to find out. So I embarked on a mission to understand religion with a tenacity that could only be called, well, religious. Is Mere Christianity a little heavy for a tender-hearted 15 year old? Perhaps. Should The Problem of Pain be reserved only for people getting their post-doctorates in theology? Certainly. But! I devoured every book I could get my hands on and pestered every local Presbyterian leader until I was able to build a little theory that works for me, helps me make sense of the world we live in, and why people do the things they do. That theory is ever-evolving--it would be a little scary if I still had the same mentality I did six years ago, but the main tenants of my beliefs remain unchanged. If anything, they have only been reinforced by my experiences since I first decided I would be an expert on everything. What can I say? Sometimes I get it right.

I'd hate to give the impression that I'm a sort of philosophical genius who thinks about the origins of religion on the reg--I probably think more about the plot line of my new favorite show Nashville than I do on my sense of spirituality. Depressing? ...yes. But it's a great show, trust me. It's just that sometimes life gives you more reason to think about why bad things happen more to good people more than others. Sometimes you're forced into wondering why you got lucky, and why other people don't. Sometimes C.S. Lewis is more relevant than other times. Maybe I know I'm lucky because I got to choose to think about life and death and why it happens, and not because I had to.

But still, no one is immune to sadness. If they are, they're in all likelihood a serial killer. I'm just saying. I'm finding though that no matter how much sense I make of my own pain, as much as I theorize about the pain of "the world", a concept that has a certain distance, it is increasingly difficult to make sense of other people's pain. Who am I to say, I read a few books once, I thought about it, and here's what I think? I'm lucky, remember. I think about religion and spirituality in the abstract, remember, because I don't need it. I've never needed to believe in something bigger than me. I do, but I don't need to, because in my life, I've never been faced with a reality that is so terrible I have to believe in something outside of myself or be consumed by despair. I cannot be an expert on this subject, and for that I am glad.

So we come back to the question of how to watch someone else be in pain, be really terribly sad. Can you understand their pain? I don't always know. I think yes. Sometimes I think no. I think the best thing to combat pain is love, which is why so often people turn to their families when things are hard. Families are safe and familiar, regardless of what other complications exist. Always love will help, and always touch--sometimes a hug is the greatest remedy of them all. But as for everything else? Spirituality and religion, the quest for a higher Salvation, belief in a life after death? I think that might just be up the individual. Not really a one-size fits all kind of problem, I guess. Maybe that's how I know I'm getting old. I don't know a damn thing anymore.

xoxo, Lauren