28 February 2006


Karen Armstrong on how 'Positive thinking' can be a route to spiritual and political disaster:
Increasingly it is becoming unacceptable to voice legitimate distress. If you lose your job, become chronically ill, or fall prey to loneliness or depression, you are likely to be told - often abrasively - to look on the bright side. With unseemly haste, people rush to put an optimistic gloss on a disaster or to suggest a patently unworkable solution. We seem to be cultivating an intolerance of pain - even our own. An acquaintance once told me that quite the most difficult aspect of her cancer was her friends' strident insistence that she develop a positive attitude, and her guilt at being unable to do so. [...]

As TS Eliot said, humankind cannot bear very much reality. Some forms of religion encourage us to bury our heads in the sand to block out the suffering that surrounds us on all sides. The rich man in his palace can reconcile himself to the plight of the poor man at his gate by reminding himself that this is part of God's bright and beautiful plan; those who suffer poverty and oppression in this life will be recompensed in the hereafter. [...]

This is lazy, inadequate religion. If we deny the reality of suffering, we will ignore the distress of others. At its best, religion requires the faithful to see things as they really are.
(via wood s lot)

1 comment:

tinuvielf said...

I've been thinking about this a lot. I don't know how I missed this post yesterday. My conclusion had been this: If God can unflinchingly watch the suffering of his people, then I'm not going to bother myself about feeling sorry for all the unfortunate souls who don't have enough to eat or who get sexually molested when they're 5 years old, or whatever. But then I began to think that maybe, if God won't do anything about it, maybe it would make that one person happier if I chose to do something. And that might be a good thing.

That was my solution to experiencing the pain of others. I had, of course, no choice but to feel my own pain. But I've always thought that I had pain so I could write about it intelligently. Didn't stop it from hurting like heck, though.

Still, I really don't worry too much about the world anymore. I didn't make it, you know. I just live here.