Friday, February 24, 2006

Ya' Gotta Suffer If Ya' Wanna Sing Da Bluez

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I really do not understand attitudes about suffering. I very much hope people chime in to this discussion.

I was raised in the 1950's ethnic Roman Catholic traditions. Suffering was almost revered in that tradition. It was seen as some badge of virtue, some sign that one had endured the fires to have the impurities burned away.

Paul in the New Testament talks about "being made perfect through suffering."

Buddha would say that the suffering that is part of life comes from clinging to illusion.

I recently received an email from a friend in Israel who is a Lubavitcher who said "May your suffering be a cleansing and an atonement for you that makes room for bigger and brighter things..."

Moslem and Hindi ascetics believe that suffering can bring them even closer to God.

Part of me understands all of that, and understands the desire to attach suffering to some sort of larger purpose. But then I see people who suffer because of injustice - babies who starve, children with AIDS, victims of war, casualties of economic corruption, tsunami victims, people displaced by flood or natural disaster - and I cannot imagine they have been singled out to suffer so that they may find some larger spiritual closeness to God. I see their suffering as real and senseless.

So how is their suffering any different from anyone else's?

We live in a world where some cultures romantisize suffering, some ignore it and some just endure it.

I feel like my brain wants to split a seam when someone says in response to some tragedy --"well, there must have been a reason..." or "It is all a part of the Larger Plan..."

I think half the world has twisted their souls into pretzel shapes trying to balance the idea of God and the idea of suffering, believing the two to be causally connected.

But I have come to think that suffering is random. Our response to it should not be. But who gets to survive cancer and who does not -- how can any sane person think that the life of the survivor was any more valuable to God than the life of the one who died? How can anyone even allow the thought that the Holocaust was part of some good divine purpose?

So here we are pulling up on Lent. I would like to make a Lenten observance of some sort -- but it brings up all the vestigial Roman Catholic 1950's suffering-as-saintly energy. I'll be sorting that out for a while, I think. Right now it all feels a-jumble - suffering, sacrifice, legitimate pain, imposed pain...

So talk to me about suffering.....and about what you think...or about what others think...

4 Comments:

Blogger samtzmom said...

I don't know Mata... I really don't know, but I suppose life being what it is, we know it's a given that there will be things which cause pain and suffering. Though, I can't begin to understand about the suffering of those who did nothing but be born vs those who have periodic times of sadness and suffering. I don't feel anyone deserves to suffer, and I don't think it makes one more pious to welcome times of angst, as if to prove we are worthy of grace. All I do know is that I can't control what happens and I know there will be many times I will face adversity, but I can control how I respond to it, and with faith I know that no matter what it is, I will get through it.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Maggie Rose said...

for me there can not possibly be a single response to the idea of suffering. I think your blog from this day has outlined a worthy list of subjects that all turn on that single idea: suffering.

I also think the subject is one of the most important ones for us to look at earnestly...yet your description of how we have twisted ourselves into pretzles to avoid coming to terms with God-and-suffering is extraordinarily accurate, imo.

for me then: there is just too much that needs to be said and that could be said and that we almost can't say about suffering

but still, well written blog, mata.
Maggie

6:14 AM  
Blogger see-through faith said...

did you read the book by Lon Solomon called brokenness. it's very good

2:47 PM  
Blogger Miss Eagle said...

I share your views on suffering just as I share, an ocean away, your Catholic upbringing and teaching on suffering. Suffering is a reality - but a mystery. For the spiritually mature, there is the aspect of response - but that still leaves us with the suffering of children, the ignorant, the helpless, the poor, and so on and so on ad infinitum.

7:25 AM  

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