a friend taking a melton class told me they just did the unit on why do people suffer. since it was a judaism class, it centred mostly on the torah interpretation, i.e., punishment for non-compliance with commandments, human minds not able to encompass the bigger picture.
knee-jerk response ... i think it splits into 2 areas - the suffering humans cause directly and indirectly, e.g., lack of care and concern for each other in our daily relationships, plus a similar lack for the consequences of our actions. and then there is that suffering that we cannot explain, e.g., natural disasters, and incurable diseases.
i see religion as a system developed and organised by humans to help engender ethical behaviour and to give explanations and meanings to our lives. i believe that it needs a contemporary context - to connect with the teachings in our scripture (for me - using the torah as my example) it helps to make them relevant to the current community. my liberal jewish way of doing this is to try and extract the essence of the text, and apply it to today.
NEVERTHELESS this is all human beings working with their human minds and hearts in their human experience. i hope i do the best i can. i also believe and feel that i must accept there are things beyond my ken that make no sense to me and do not feel fair.
so what do i do with that?
i can blame god. i can say that a god who lets these things happen is not a very good god. i can damn religion and refuse to take part in it.
i can be angry. i can be angry with god. and the world. and myself. and people. i can be sad. i can be miserable. i can be depressed. i can be cynical.
interestingly enough, however, all these things are all about me. ME. that does not mean that i am not stricken on behalf of someone i love who is going through chemo, or sick at the news from darfur. i am not a bad person.
the thing is - maybe i need to switch the focus. instead of feeling powerless - is there something i may do to make a difference?
the first choice is to try and fix the situation at hand. that may not be possible. i cannot cure my friend's cancer. i cannot stop wars and corruption on the other side of the world.
what then can i do? NUMBER ONE IS TO HAVE HOPE. it ain't over 'til it's over
number two is to do something. there is no quick fix for the ills of the world. it took a long time for us to mess it up like this, and it will take a long time to make it better. perhaps, if we were not so attached to the need to see the results of our actions, we would find it easier to act. yet we harvest and eat fruit planted by those who never enjoyed that fruit themselves. so why do we balk at following their example?
that's all very well and noble, you may say, but what about my sick friend? what about the evil and corruption in the world far and near?
my answer is that we do the best we can. we love and comfort and care for our dear ones. we live the values to which we aspire. we work to improve the world by speaking up for those values, by being active within the forces for change.
if you believe in a god or divine presence, then perhaps you may draw some of the strength you need from this faith. if you do not, then it is up to you. the point is, the power is in our own hands to do something. it is a cop-out to blame anything or anyone else. if you don't like it - do something about it! it may take baby steps at first, but if you don't start, you'll not get anywhere.
ps yanks 9 runs down tonight after one and a half innings and the radio guy saying this is embarrassing. guess what - they just won in the bottom of the 9th with 2 out. they didn't give up :-)