AUDIENCE MEMBER: OK, this is a general question.
When I went on birthright, we talked a lot about the idea that everything happens for
a reason in the Jewish religion, and so I wanted to know your beliefs and your mindset
on when you experience things in life that are really bad, for instance a lot of nice
people and good people passing away or just anything bad that happens in life, I guess
your belief on that and if you still believe everything happens for a reason.
WOLPE: OK, I’m going to try to make this really as quick as possible, but give me some
allowance for the fact that I’m making it very quick. First of all, I don’t believe
at all that everything happens for a reason. Not at all. I think there’s a lot of randomness
in the world. I think the attempt to say everything happens for a reason can lead you to some
moral obscenities like, “Oh, this kid in the Sudan who was born with amoebic dysentery
and lived for three years and suffered and died, it happened for a reason.” Yeah, the
reason is because the world is unfair. That’s the reason. Now, why the world is unfair,
I have a theory about. But before I get to that, let me just say,
the question of life is not why did this happen to you but what will you do with it, given
that it happened to you. That’s the question, does God give you the power to make something
out of what has happened to you even though . . .
It’s like when I got cancer. Couple times. I’ve had two brain surgeries and I’ve
had chemotherapy, and every time someone would say to me, “Why do you think God did this?”
And they were well meant. And my answer was, “I don’t think that God said Wolpe could
use some chemo.” [laughter]
WOLPE: I think, rather, that the question of my life would be, given that this happened,
what do you do with it? How do you react to it? How do you feel about it? And I would
just say very quickly that my working theory is — and it’s not original with me — is
that when people say, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Imagine for a minute
that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Everybody
would be good all the time. Because who would be bad if you know every time you steal, you’re
going to get a disease. Everyone would be good all the time.
The only way it is possible to be good in this world is if you can be good without knowing
the consequences. It has to be random or there’s no goodness. So you know you can be the best
person in the world, and you can still die young. But at least, if you know that, then
your goodness was real goodness. You were doing it because you believe good is important,
or you love other people, or being good makes you feel good — something intrinsic
and not because you’re being good because you know God’s going to reward you. So that’s
what I would say in a nutshell.