Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pain problems

Bill Clinton's biography includes his acknowledgment that he began to question his religious roots because he couldn't understand how a loving God could allow so much suffering and pain in the world. I don't remember exactly how he put it, but it was another iteration of the problem of pain discussed in theology and philosophy classes around the globe. It's a problem I appreciate.

If God wants us to be happy, and he most assuredly does, then why does he "make" us in a manner that we desire something forbidden to be happy? For some, the reductio ad absurdum argument ends there and the conclusion is not that happiness doesn't lie with the forbidden thing after all, but that he in fact doesn't forbid it. It's the more pleasant way to resolve the issue. Is it a fallacy? I hope you won't be offended by my offering my opinion that it is.

God doesn't take suffering lightly. He makes it clear throughout scripture that whatever else we do, if we fail to help the suffering, we are in big trouble. But, at the same time, he doesn't keep even the best from suffering. Christ, of course, suffered more than anyone. Job suffered immensely, and the list of martyrs is long. People suffer all the time, and God not only puts up with it, but seems to let it happen to the best. And, it even seems to me that God Himself suffers because of His children's poor choices. This makes me think that presence or absence of suffering isn't a big component in the happiness I'm looking for in life. Maybe it's only the presence or absence of suffering in those around me that counts. I dunno. Maybe there's something distinctive about different kinds of suffering.

Long ago I was told that the key to success is the endurance of pain. I've thought on that quite a bit and realized that subjecting oneself to certain kinds of "suffering" does indeed foster success, discipline, sacrifice, self-control and many other virtues. It's the purported antithesis to happiness that brings the most success and consequently more happiness. Where in all this does embracing gay love or gay sex lie? Does abstaining count as virtuous suffering that will make me stronger? Or does it count as frank unhappiness on the surface?


Samantha said...

"The Butterfly"

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone. . . .

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly 'way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished to
kiss the world good-bye.

For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
in the ghetto.

Pavel Friedman 4.6.1942

So many questions...who has the answers? How did Pavel Friedman find that which he loved inside a concentration camp? Perhaps the things we learn from suffering and pain can be learned in no other way? Perhaps happiness isn't really linked to pain and physical existence?

By the way, I hope you'll always comment on my blog--ANYWHERE within my blog. I love what you have to say.

Chris (hurricane) said...


First, I recommend to you the late Eugene England's essay, The Weeping God of Mormonism. I think it will resonate with you.

Pain is a part of the human condition. We all experience it. The value of pain lies in what we learn from it and how we handle it. I do not believe that enduring pain is in and of itself virtuous or desirable. And I think those who call themselves Christians are obligate to care for and help relieve the pain of those who suffer from it.

-L- said...

Sam, thanks for the beautiful poem. I really love poetry. It makes me slow down. Drink in a little life.

Chris, I will look for the England reference (my wife LOVES England).

Reading back over the last few posts, they have been quite scattered and unclear, but that's the nature of it, I guess. I don't believe there is anything particularly virtuous about pain for its own sake either. But, here I was using pain at times interchangably with effort and work (often synonymous with pain for me!). Oh, and going outside your comfort zone--that's a valuable kind of pain in many contexts. Does that make my mental meanderings any clearer? I guess I'm rethinking how life isn't easy, and it's often the hard parts that hold the most value. You know, what you guys just said. :-)

And, I suppose this all relates back to sexuality because there's a certain pain in the path I'm taking. And I think it's okay.