I was driving to Costco to pick up a new pair of glasses early yesterday afternoon when I heard the first reports of the latest terrorist attacks in Paris. The kind man who retrieved my glasses for me was born in Germany near the French border. He asked me if I had heard anything further than what he had picked up at work. I told him what I knew, and we talked for a little while about why such things happen. About disaffected youth and discrimination and joblessness and the desperate search for some kind of meaning in lives that can find little else than whatever jihad has come to mean.

I said that I could almost wish there was an afterlife, because the worst that I can wish for these young “martyrs” is that they wake up in one to realize that everything they had done, every atrocity, every sacrifice, of self and others, had all gone for naught. That it meant nothing. There is a big bang, and then there is … nothing.

He agreed. It was a moment of connection. We looked at each other across the counter and realized the enormity of it all. That these young people were killing themselves and others for … nothing. And because there is, so far as both of us were concerned, nothing, these young people would never know. We wish that somehow, some way, someone will come back, in a vision or a dream, to tell them to stop, but that will never happen. Because there’s nobody there. Because there’s nothing there. There’s no reward. There’s no punishment. There’s no justification. There’s no explanation.

There’s nothing.