Sunday’s Wisdom #78: The Human Need for Reason

“Do you know why I always blame myself in situations like this? Because at least it’s an answer. Sometimes we just need a reason, when a situation is completely unreasonable.”
– Oliver Queen, Arrow
Season 4, Episode 20, “Canary Cry”

Oliver Queen is no stranger to making mistakes, some of which have had serious repercussions. He’s also no stranger to blaming himself, taking all the responsibility for everything that is wrong with the world onto his own shoulders. Sometimes that has some semi-legitimacy to it, but it often doesn’t.

He’s a man who has been fighting for years amidst all the madness and sorrow of the world, and he’s been lost in the darkness for quite some time. When he climbs out, however, he still retains some bad habits, but he’s also gained some perspective. He knows now, not everything is his fault. Even now, he blames himself when bad things happen. But he also knows that it’s not just out of an overzealous desire to take responsibility for his actions. In fact, it’s part of human psychology.

Bad things happen, and we ask why. No answer forthcoming, we take the first answer we can get, within ourselves. There is no rhyme or reason to the terrible things that happen. The world is not fair or reasonable. But in this, at least, we are able to influence how we perceive the world, to alter things in such a way that we can handle them, endure them, survive them without breaking.

This is a bit of insight I have never considered before.

We often hear the words, “It wasn’t your fault. There’s nothing you could have done. You couldn’t have stopped it.” But still we blame ourselves, often in ways so convoluted and illogical that they defy all reason. I’ve done it, and I’ve seen others do it. When something terrible happens that we just can’t handle all at once, it’s like we’re adrift in a storm, being thrown about and drowned again and again. We need a rock, any rock, to grab on to. We need to steady ourselves, and if we have nothing else… well, sometimes blaming ourselves in the short term can prove healthy in the long term.

Note that I say, “short term.” It does not do to forever dwell on things which we can never change, and which we never truly had any power over in the first place. A rather dangerous trap, that. It may be insane to avoid taking responsibility for anything, but it’s every bit as mad of us to start thinking that we can control the entire world.

In fact, it’s madness to believe that we can, or should, control anything at all… except ourselves.

Still, even when we’re wrong, we can, for at least a moment, find some respite from the greater madness of the world. Just so long as we pick ourselves back up again after we’ve rested.

Madness is a fun place to visit, but a very bad place to live long-term! 😛

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