Thursday, 6 May 2021

Misreading the Bible

A lot of writers talk about their ‘process’, the manner in which they go about writing their books. Based on what I’ve heard from other authors I’ve spoken to, there is no one universal process that all authors use. So for this post, I thought it might be interesting to write about my process and the unique steps involved in parodying a book like the Bible.

The first step is to actually read the Bible. I’ve read everything before, but it’s a good idea for me to have the stories fresh in my mind. It also allows me to see if any jokes or potential plot twists jump out at me; as I’ve said before, a lot of the verses and stories are bizarre even without my patented brand of ‘misreading’.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are many issues with the Bible. The gospels present a unique challenge as there are multiple versions of each story. Christian theologians have attempted to reconcile this by creating tables of corresponding verses called harmonies (I discuss them here). I’ve been using a similar tactic to put the narratives in order (something I started doing while I was writing my second book, A MisreadBible Christmas). I use Excel to create tables and work out which verses constitute a narrative and organise them into stories and sections.

Here’s part of the table for my next book.

(Click to view larger image)

I’ve tried, where possible, to keep narratives that follow on from each other together (I’ve drawn thick borders around contiguous narratives), but as the order is different in each gospel, it’s impossible for all of the narratives in all four gospels to be in order, so I’ve chosen to base mine predominantly around Luke and John.

In some instances, I’ve shuffled things around a bit to improve the overall plot. For instance, The Lord’s Many Stalkers (based on Matthew 9:27-34) comes before A Paralytic Drops in (Matthew 9:1-8) and Slipping into Levi’s (Matthew 9:9-17) because it creates a more dramatic build up as more and more people flock to Jesus wanting to be healed.

Once I’ve got the stories into a rough order, I begin looking at individual narratives more closely. When I come across passages where the meaning is uncertain or that contradict others, I read commentaries to see how Christian theologians interpret them, and I also look at what secular scholars have written on the subject. I take copious notes that I can refer to later when I write the stories.

When real historical figures are mentioned, I research them to find out how accurate the details about them in the Bible are. When I was writing my second book, I parodied A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, casting Herod the Great as Scrooge. I based the events of his life in my story on real events in Herod’s life whilst also linking to the Bible nativity narrative.

My main concerns when writing my adaptations are consistency, dealing with contradictions, giving the characters personality, and finding ways to deal with the boring sections of the Bible (usually things like the chapters of begats).

The characters in the Bible are generally lifeless and dry, going through the motions in order to progress the story. It’s often difficult to work out their motivations or connect to them on an emotional level. I try to imbue them with life and give them longer character arcs. In my current book, I have quite a few characters to work with: Jesus himself, John the Baptist, Jesus’s disciples, Mary Magdalene, and a host of others. Sometimes, the personality of a character develops naturally, but other times, I have to think of what traits would work well in the situations presented by the stories and with other characters. Again, I take copious notes.

Throughout the whole process, I allow myself to shift the order of narratives and try to create an outline of overall story arcs. Obviously, the Bible has its own story arc (although, it’s usually underdeveloped and inconsistent), but I like to add in my own subplots and twists throughout the larger story.

Now I can begin writing. In sections of the Bible where there is a single version of the narrative, I’ll copy the text from BibleGateway into a Word document and go verse by verse writing my version of the story above the original, deleting verses from the original as I go. I try to retain the positions of the verse numbers.

In other sections, however (such as the gospels), there are multiple versions of each story. I have to compare the various versions and work out which details from each I want to keep. This can be a difficult task, but I’ve created a database and webpage hosted on my computer that allows me to view corresponding narratives from different gospel books side-by-side. Once I’ve figured out which parts I want to use from each gospel, I copy the text into Word and go through the verse-by-verse process as before, adding in any details from the other gospels if necessary.

Then, of course, the final step is proofreading and editing. Proofreading isn’t just about catching spelling and grammar mistakes, it’s also an opportunity to assess the story as a whole. Sometimes when I’m proofreading, I’ll find that something needs to be completely rewritten or that the plot isn’t working in some places and needs to be adjusted.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that when I read back what I’ve written, I tend to read things as they should be written rather than how they are actually written. Having other people proofread helps a lot in this regard, as does reading my stories out loud to other people. Another thing I’ve started to use is Word’s ‘Read aloud’ feature, which reads what I wrote verbatim.

No matter how much prep work you put into writing, proofreading and being willing to revise and polish your work is vital. It’s very rare that you’ll write something flawless in your first draft. I used to get really bogged down in scrutinising my writing as I wrote. I’d be in mid-flow and grind to a halt trying to get the phrasing exactly right. Eventually, I trained myself to ignore all of those things as I am writing and try to just keep writing. If there are any errors (I can guarantee there will be), I can always correct them later.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Gospel Disharmony

As I’m currently working on my fourth book covering the gospels, I thought I’d write about some of their issues, and how I am dealing with them in order to write the book. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the issues, and I plan to write a follow up addressing how I am dealing with them.

As you may know, the Bible is riddled with contradictions, and it’s not at all surprising given that it was written by multiple authors with different religious views over a period of centuries. Often authors would write narratives based on the same source, and the resulting stories would have some common elements but differ many ways. I gave an example of this in my earlier post Sister-Wives and the Documentary Hypothesis.

When it comes to the gospels, they all purport to tell the story of Jesus’s life and ministry, and there is evidence that a lot of material comes from common sources. The majority of scholars hold that Mark was written first (circa AD 66-70), and Matthew and Luke (written circa AD 85-90) used some version of it and one or more other source (scholars call this Q, from the German Quelle meaning ‘source’). As these three gospels share a large amount of material, they are known as the Synoptic Gospels.

They tell the story of Jesus’s birth (in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2), his baptism by John the Baptist, and his ministries in Galilee and Judaea (a timespan of around a year), ending with his crucifixion, and post-resurrection appearances (in Matthew 28 and Luke 24. The oldest copies of Mark cut out before any post-resurrection appearances), but the order of events varies from gospel to gospel.

The Gospel of John (written circa AD 90-110), on the other hand, has mostly unique material, sharing only a few stories with the Synoptic Gospels. Where in the synoptics, Jesus is baptised by John and then returns to Galilee, in the Gospel of John, Jesus spends time with John, baptising alongside him. Where the synoptics have Jesus starting out in Galilee and moving towards Judaea, John has him constantly making trips to Jerusalem in Judaea for various festivals and says very little about his activities in Galilee. John’s version describes a period of around three years, as three separate Passover festivals take place.

Many attempts have been made by Christian scholars to reconcile (or harmonise) the gospels, creating an accurate timeline of events. This can take the form of a single merged narrative called a synopsis, or as a table of corresponding verses called a harmony.

Jesus’s Peraean Ministry

The contradictions between accounts are glaring, and the attempts to harmonise the gospels often create more issues than they resolve. One of the weird side-effects of harmonisation is the invention of a ministry not found in the text of the gospels: Jesus’s Peraean ministry.

In Mark 10 and Matthew 19, Jesus leaves Galilee for the region of Judaea and beyond the Jordan (Peraea). Presumably, Jesus’s discourse about divorce, the blessing of the little children, and the conversation with the rich young man took place here. Straight afterwards, he continues his journey to Jerusalem via Jericho. Peraea is merely one stop along his way during his journey.

In John 7, after Jesus’s brothers invite him to go to the Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot), he travels down to Jerusalem alone and ends up preaching at the temple. There is no mention of him returning to Galilee, so presumably, he remained in Judaea. Then in John 10, he goes to the temple for the Festival of Dedication (Hanukkah), after which he retreats to Peraea. Nothing is mentioned about what he does in Peraea, and the next thing we read is that he went to Bethany, near Jerusalem, to resurrect Lazarus, and retreated to Ephraim in northern Judaea, and he set off from there for his final journey to Jerusalem.

However, in Luke, no mention is made of Peraea, and instead, in Luke 9, ‘Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem,’ and sent some of his disciples to a village in Samaria. When they are rejected, he goes to another unspecified village. Between Luke 9 and 18, his location isn’t reported, except for in Luke 17 when he’s said to be on the border between Galilee and Samaria. Then he continues on to Jericho (in Luke 18) to continue his journey to Jerusalem.

In an attempt to reconcile this, some harmonies place all or some of the events between Luke 9 and 18 (where no location is reported in the text) in Peraea and move Luke 17’s story of Jesus on the border of Galilee and Samaria back to when his disciples were rejected in Samaria. And thus, they have invented Jesus’s Peraean ministry.

Contradictory Order of Events

These are just some examples of some of the narratives that occur at different points in different gospels.

The Healing of the Paralytic at Capernaum

According to Mark 2, it took place when Jesus returned to Capernaum after calling the fishermen. According to Matthew 9, it took place as he was leaving the boat after crossing the Sea of Galilee from Gadara after curing two demon-possessed men. And according to Luke 5, it happened while he was ‘in one of the cities’ of Galilee preaching.

The Cleansing of the Temple

According to John 2, it took place at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry after the Wedding at Cana, but in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 11, Matthew 21, Luke 19), it occurred towards the end when he was in Jerusalem before the crucifixion.

Contradictory Details

Here are some examples of narratives with even more contradictory details.

The Anointing of Jesus

A woman anoints Jesus with ointment.

Mark 14Matthew 26Luke 7John 12
TownBethanyBethanyDoesn’t sayBethany
In the house ofSimon the leperSimon the leperSimon the PhariseeLazarus
WhenJust before crucifixionJust before crucifixionGalilean ministryJust before crucifixion
WhoUnnamed womanUnnamed womanUnnamed sinful womanMary the sister of Martha
What she doesPours ointment over Jesus’s headPours ointment over Jesus’s headAnoints his feet and dries them with her hairAnoints his feet and dries them with her hair
Disciples were presentYesYesNoYes

The Exorcism of Legion

Jesus and his disciples cross the Sea of Galilee and are approached by one or two demon-possessed men and casts the demons into a herd of pigs.

Mark 5Matthew 8Luke 8
Came fromTombsTombsCity
The demoniac was nakedYesNoYes
Demons identify themselves as LegionYesNoYes
Man wants to join JesusYesNoYes

The Empty Tomb

After Jesus’s crucifixion Mary Magdalene goes to anoint his body.

Mark 16Matthew 28Luke 24John 20
Who goes to the tombMary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and SalomeMary Magdalene, and the other MaryMary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and a number of other womenMary Magdalene
Stone already rolled awayYesNoYesYes
Guards presentNoYesNoNo
Who they seeA young man in white in the tombAn angel descending outside tombTwo men in shining clothes in the tombNobody
Women enter the tombYesNoYesNo
Peter enters the tombNoNoYesYes
They see resurrected Jesus immediatelyNoYesNoNo
Disciples toldThe women are ordered to, but instead flee in terrorYesYesYes

Thursday, 17 December 2020

The Man from Two Places

Imagine you were tasked with writing the definitive version of the gospel. You have some version of the Book of Mark available for a large chunk of the narrative, but it doesn’t include all of the new stories that have been floating around, such as Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances, and it also says nothing about his birth.

What’s more, despite the fact that Jesus is said to come from Nazareth in Galilee, there’s another tradition that says he was born in Bethlehem in Judaea. So, how can you incorporate this new tradition into the story and write the narrative of his birth in Bethlehem without contradicting the fact that he came from Nazareth?

Well, if you’re the author of Luke, you begin with Jesus’s parents living in Nazareth but invent a scenario that forces his mother to give birth in Bethlehem and return to Nazareth to raise him. On the other hand, if you’re the author of Matthew, you begin with the couple living in Bethlehem but invent a scenario that forces them to move to Nazareth after he’s born.

Luke's Nativity

The Gospel of Luke tells the story of a girl called Mary living in Nazareth who was betrothed to a man named Joseph. God sent an angel named Gabriel to tell her that she’d give birth to a son despite being a virgin.

Some time after this, the Romans decided to conduct a census, but for some strange reason, they told everyone to return to the town of their ancestors to register. Now, Joseph, the man to whom Mary was engaged, was a descendant of King David who was born in Bethlehem, so he took his pregnant wife and went to Bethlehem to register for the census.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t find a room for the night, and even more unfortunately, Mary went into labour, and thus, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, possibly in a stable (although it doesn’t explicitly say this), and placed in a manger where he was adored by some local shepherds.

After they’d waited a week for Mary to no longer be ‘ceremonially unclean’ from giving birth, they went to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice, and on the eighth day, the baby was circumcised. After this, they returned to Nazareth.

Matthew's Nativity

Now, the author of Matthew came up with another way to resolve the issue. His story doesn’t mention Mary and Joseph living in Nazareth before Jesus’s birth. The first mention of a location is in Matthew 2:1 where it says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Judaea, so it’s reasonable to assume that in Matthew’s version, Joseph and Mary were living there to begin with.

Matthew’s account begins by saying that Joseph and Mary were pledged to be married, but when she became inexplicably pregnant, Joseph decided to divorce her. However, an angel visited him and assured him that the child was conceived via the Holy Spirit.

Some time after the child was born, some unspecified number of magi from the east turned up looking for the Messiah, and they inadvertently tipped off King Herod that a new king had been born. The magi visited Jesus and brought him gifts. Meanwhile, Herod, fearing that the newborn king would usurp his throne, sent his men out to kill all the boys aged two and under. Luckily, Joseph was warned about this in a dream, so he and Mary took the baby and fled to Egypt.

Once Herod was dead, an angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the coast was clear. However, Herod’s son Archelaus was now king, and Joseph was afraid to return to Bethlehem, so, instead, he, his wife, and his son settled outside of Judaea in Nazareth, Galilee.

Bringing them together

These two authors found very different ways to reconcile the conflicting traditions and came up with unique stories. However, both accounts made it into the Bible and have added elements to the Nativity story.

So, the combined version of the story begins in Luke with Mary being visited by Gabriel and being told she’d have a baby. The narrative then switches over to Joseph’s angelic visitation in Matthew. As no location is mentioned at this point in the story, you can claim this took place in Nazareth so as not to contradict Luke. Turning back to Luke, the Roman census brings the couple down to Bethlehem where Mary gives birth in a stable, and the shepherds turn up to adore the baby.

Jumping back to Matthew, some magi from the east come searching for the newborn king, tip off Herod, and then bring the baby gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense. In modern retellings of the Nativity, the number of magi is usually given as three because they had three gifts, and they are called either wise men or kings. Also, their visitation is often depicted as concurrent with the shepherds’.

Now, here comes the tricky part. In Luke, the couple observed the ritual purification week, had Jesus circumcised on the eighth day, and then returned home to Nazareth, but in Matthew, they went to Egypt once the magi had left, and it was only after Herod died that they settled in Nazareth. The easiest way to resolve this contradiction is to ignore it by including only one of the endings or leaving them off completely. I mean, it’s much more pleasant to end with the happy couple being brought gifts than it is to have them fleeing from an infanticidal killing spree, right?

Saturday, 29 February 2020

God Doesn't Send People to Hell... People Do

I’ve never understood the Christian argument that God doesn’t send people to Hell, you send yourself there, as though this means God has no hand in it. Bear in mind I don’t believe in God nor Hell, I am merely addressing the argument.

To me, the idea is analogous to a mugger saying, ‘Give me your wallet, or I’ll shoot you,’ the victim refusing to give him his wallet, and the mugger shooting him and saying, ‘It’s your fault that I shot you.’ For the record, I’m not the first person to draw this analogy.

So, when a Christian has made the argument to me that people send themselves to Hell, I have often responded, ‘But God created Hell,’ or, ‘But isn’t Hell supposed to be the punishment that God set up for sinners?’ And often the Christian will reply, ‘He created Hell for Satan and/or his demons.’

If that’s the case, why do people end up there? Surely, it would still mean that God sends people there even if it wasn’t his original intention to do so. Even then, if he is unchanging, how could he change his mind about the purpose of Hell? And if he is omniscient, how could he create Hell without knowing he would eventually intend for sinners to go there?

Are they suggesting that it is Satan or some other force that takes people to Hell? If so, and it isn’t God’s intention for people to go there, why would he allow it? No matter what the cause, if an omnipotent god disagreed with people going to Hell, it would be within his power to prevent it.

So, the question is, why is your god okay with people going to Hell?

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Reconciling the Stations of the Exodus

My stories began as standalone narratives, which I was writing as longer versions of my joke Twitter verses. When I decided to turn them into books, I had to consider the overarching narrative and ensure that the stories fit together cohesively. For ‘The MisreadBible: Genesis’, this wasn’t much of a problem because the Book of Genesis consists mostly of narratives, which are in more or less chronological order.

My next book (tentatively titled ‘The MisreadBible: Exodus’), will cover the Books of Exodus to Deuteronomy. Turning this particular collection of stories into a long narrative hasn’t been an easy task.

For a start, there are lots of non-narrative chapters covering laws and the bizarre blood rituals the Israelites performed for everything from atoning for sins to curing leprosy. They seem to have been scattered willy-nilly throughout the books, sometimes right in the middle of stories. My solution? Put them to one side and keep only the narratives. I am considering having a section at the back of the book where I’ll parody them in a different way.

The next issue was that the main narratives are found in Exodus to Numbers, and Deuteronomy, for the most part, just glosses over the stories, sometimes with additional or contradictory details. My solution? Base the narratives on Exodus to Numbers and use Deuteronomy as a supplementary source.

I often use spreadsheets to lay out ideas because I find it easier to process information in table form. I created a spreadsheet, listed the main narratives from Exodus to Numbers in one column, put the corresponding passage references in the next, and marked which of them I had written. Each time I write a new story, I replace the traditional narrative name with my own title.

After a while, it occurred to me that this whole narrative is about a journey, and while I had been including the names of various places in the stories, I was ignoring the fact that the Israelites were moving from place to place.

Numbers 33 contains a passage known as the Stations of the Exodus, a list of the various locations (or stations) that the Israelites visited on their journey. I made another table based on this list and tried to match the locations mentioned in Exodus to Numbers against it. I did the same thing with Deuteronomy. Ah! There’s an issue. Each list contained places that weren’t in the others.

‘Okay,’ I thought to myself. ‘Maybe some helpful Christian has sat and made a list of all of these locations in order, or maybe they’ve made a map.’

I looked for lists of all of the places mentioned, but I was unable to find one. I also looked at several different ‘Route of the Exodus’ maps, but no two were the same.

‘Okay,’ I thought to myself again. ‘Maybe people have worked out where some of these places are, and I can make my own map in order to work out the order.’

It turns out that only a handful of places have been identified, lots more have multiple proposed locations, and most are completely unknown. Even Mount Sinai is hypothesised to be in several distinct locations.

‘Bugger!’ I thought.

I put in hours of work trying to make the three sources fit together, so much time, in fact, that I hadn’t spent any writing new stories. My book was stagnating.

Then a realisation hit me: I am writing a book of fiction. Books of fiction don’t have to be accurate in every detail. Besides, making fun of the contradictions in the Bible is something that I do in my stories all the time.

So, at the end of all this, I do have a crude list of places the Israelites visited. It might not be completely accurate, but I can use it as a rough guide.

The lesson from all of this is that the Pentateuch (that is the first five books of the Bible) is a patchwork of multiple sources that were never intended to be combined. The source documents were composed of stories that were cobbled together into longer narratives, and these documents were combined despite the fact that they contradict each other. Trying to get a literal or even coherent picture from them is a fool’s errand.

My job as a satirist and an author is to accentuate the absurdities, poke fun at the contradictions, but at the end of the day, tell an entertaining story. If, when I release my next book, you think that I’ve got the places in the wrong order, kindly write down the order in which you think they should appear, put the list into an envelope, and shove it all the way up your arse.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

War on Christmas

According to certain American conservative Christians, we atheists are waging a war on Christmas. Apparently, nobody deemed it necessary to tell me this when I went through atheist boot camp. Although this fear that Christmas is somehow under attack seems to be a uniquely American phenomenon, and I’m British and therefore unqualified to comment, I thought I’d weigh in on the issue anyway.

Both the UK and US have a predominantly Christian populace, and, as a result, Christmas has become part of the culture. However, in both nations, there are people who follow other religions with their own festivals, and people who are non-religious.

Here in the UK, that’s not really a problem. Christmas is the most popular festival, so people generally wish each other a merry Christmas, even if they don’t know which festival the other person celebrates, and this greeting is well received, because it’s understood that Christmas is what most people celebrate.

In the US, people also wish each other merry Christmas, but some people opt to say ‘happy holidays’ instead, as they are aware that Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated at this time of year. That seems reasonable, right? In a country that was built on immigration by people who came from all corners of the globe (side note: American globes are actually cube-shaped), using a more inclusive greeting seems very fitting.

WRONG! You see, even though wishing somebody happy holidays is a sentiment that translates to, ‘I hope that you enjoy whichever festival you celebrate; I don’t want to assume, but I wish you well anyway’, according to some people, not specifically using the word ‘Christmas’ at the time when they celebrate Christmas is like taking a huge dump on their face, the faces of their children, their sincerely held Christian beliefs, the American flag, and blue-eyed white American Jesus!

Some even go as far as to claim that people are trying to ‘take the Christ out of Christmas’ in the same way that not displaying the Ten Commandments (laws from Judaism and Christianity) in schools and other public buildings is, in some way that nobody can quite explain, evicting the omnipresent God from those places. I bet it never occurred to you that if even one person gives a festive greeting to a Christian that doesn’t include the word ‘Christmas’, they are forced to take down all of their decorations, the Christmas ham is ripped from their mouths, and all of their gifts are confiscated and burned on a pyre built out of the branches of their Christmas tree. Well, you know now, you inconsiderate prick!

The fact of the matter is Christmas, as it’s celebrated today, has little to do with the birth of Christ. The nativity story doesn’t include a scene where Santa flies in with his reindeer, and there were no decorated conifers in the manger. Jesus wasn’t even born in winter, and even if he had been, it’s unlikely that the land would have been covered in snow. And when the magi decided to bring Jesus gifts, it wasn’t after spending several gruelling hours in a department store fighting off other shoppers as they tried to procure the last bottle of myrrh.

The majority of the traditions we associate with Christmas are a product of the cultures that celebrate it, either as continuations of pre-Christian practices or later secular additions. But none of these non-Christian trappings prevent the religious from celebrating Christmas as a religious festival. Churches still have midnight mass, shops still sell manger scenes, and you can still crack open your Bible and read both of the nativity narratives. You can even do all of the secular things and pretend that they have something to do with the birth of Jesus if you like! None of us atheists will hold you at gunpoint and force you to stop, I swear!

I know I’ve treated this topic with my usual sarcastic and cynical tone, but in all honesty, I quite enjoy Christmas. I love spending time with my family, indulging in a bit of gluttony, and giving people presents with the hopes that it will bring them some joy.

No matter what you celebrate this time of year, or even if you don’t celebrate anything, I wish you happiness, religious liberty, and a credit card bill that you can easily afford to pay off in January.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Wouldn't You Prefer to Believe?

Before we get into the post, I’d like to announce that Courtney Heard, who writes the Godless Mom blog, is doing a giveaway of my books. Visit Enter to Win These Hilarious Books About The Bible to enter. And check out her blog; it's awesome.

I’ve had a pretty shit month. My grandmother died a few weeks ago, and this past weekend my dog had to be put down. I wrote a blog post about the passing of my grandmother where I discussed how I as a non-religious person deal with death, but there are still some points to address.

One point is in relation to something that was said to me several times in the past few weeks: ‘Wouldn’t you prefer to believe that your grandma is in Heaven?’ It’s quite an odd question. I’m sure that the people who said it were trying to console me, but I found it pretty irritating.

Have you ever tried to believe something? Have you ever managed to convince yourself that something you don’t believe is actually true? I spent the last years of being religious trying to believe things that no longer made sense to me and found the whole process agonising. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t escape the fact that I honestly didn’t believe anymore.

If we were able to force ourselves to believe things, there are lots of things I’d like to believe. I’d like to believe that there are no kids dying of starvation. I’d like to believe that crime only happens in TV police dramas. Hell, I’d like to believe the adverts that say that single women in my area are eagerly awaiting my phone call because I’m such a super stud.

I’d love to believe that death isn’t the end and I could be reunited with my loved ones in some paradisiacal afterlife, but I don’t. Maybe the idea would bring me comfort and I’d mourn less; I don’t know.

The fact of the matter is life isn’t always pleasant. Pretending that everything is fine doesn’t change that. In fact, I think that we have to acknowledge the negative aspects of life in order to strive to make things better. If you know that there are hungry people out there, you can donate food to a local food bank. If you know that crimes happen, you can do your best to secure your house. And if you know that life comes to an end, you can do your best to make the most of the time you have and value the people you love. The time you have with them is precious. Treat them well, not because you think there’s a reward in it for you like some mythical afterlife; do it because it’s the only time you have with them.