Sunday, April 10, 2011

On hopelessness

  Yes, I have experienced "dryness" and "hopelessness". Some experiences were evident life threats. Other experiences were more complex and were like scary demons that haunted me with refinements of evil. 

Mário Quintana was a great Brazilian poet from my home town. He, wrote:

Let our woes suffice to ourselves
For to no one his cross is tiny.
As bad as the situation in China is,
Our corn hurts much more...

  That is, I was the one in the midst of these events and only I know how I felt. To me, these events indeed contained in them hopelessness. 
  In one way it is difficult for me to speak about some events. That is because they are very much private in one sense. I find it is less difficult to speak about situations where we have no control over the events. That is, when disaster just felt upon me. The other situations - the more complex ones - they expose more readily a certain inability. They would describe a struggle with myself and with God, much like Jacob. 
  When I was about 7 years old, a "friend" of mine almost drowned me. I thought I would die under water. I got to a point where I couldn't even struggle anymore and was still under water. For a split second I was clearly aware of the possibility of death.
  Shortly after that, this same "friend" threw a thick stick on my sister that got into her eye. I still remember my feeling of horror as I ran with her towards my mother. She was in my mind the symbol of everything pure, simple and delicate. In a split second I was in a scene of horror. I can share with you later on other moments of hopelessness. The list includes robbery, swimming in a stormy sea, car accidents, aircraft accidents, failing courses, etc. And there's the unspeakable list of private hopeless moments.
  If God is good, why does he or she or it let these things happen in the first place? Is he sarcastic? Does he need attention like a 2 year old with tantrum? Or would it fit the characteristic of a God who likes to torture his creatures?
  As for my faith or the lack of it as it stands, I have a problem with simplistic answers. I'm in constant tension between simple answers and complex doubts. I'm hesitant to embrase the simplistic idea of 'don't worry, everything will be alright at the end'. I don't like this idea because it often hides the dirt and the blood. It is almost like a denial of suffering or hopelessness. It rushes to avoid hopelessness. Do you know that song 'Shinny Happy People' by REM? 
  Shiny happy people laughing
  Meet me in the crowd
  People people
  Throw your love around
  Love me love me
  Take it into town
  Happy happy
  Put it in the ground
  Where the flowers grow
  Gold and silver shine
  Shiny happy people holding hands
  Shiny happy people laughing
  Everyone around love them, love them
  Put it in your hands
  Take it take it
  There's no time to cry
  Happy happy
  Put it in your heart
  Where tomorrow shines
  Gold and silver shine
  Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people laughing

Do you remember the ending of the Life of Brian by Monty Pyton? "Always look at the bright side of life"

The Ottawa Citizen ran on May 2008 a story on Father Suarez, a charismatic catholic priest said to have the gift of healing by some. 
It read:
"After mass, people scrambled forward to have Father Suarez lay his hands on them, pushing and stumbling so much that his assistant, Father Jeff Shannon, had to appeal for good manners and forgiveness for queue-jumpers. Silently, Father Suarez put his hand on each forehead, shoulder, or neck, sometimes even tweaking a nose while Father Shannon kept up an encouraging patter: “Love, love, love! Happy, happy, happy!" 

I don't like that. It sounds too much like Polyanna. 
I prefer accounts that acknowlege the mess of life and death. That's why I like the Bible. In one page Jesus ressurects Lazarus. In the next page he cries out 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?".

It's too simplistic to think that God will always come to the rescue. Ok, Lazarus was ressurected by Jesus. But other times people just die. We still see horror today in the form of war, hunger or personal crises. 

I don't know anyone who has come back to life after death. I frankly struggle with the word "death" a bit. Yes, my grandmother died. In one way we know what it means to die. But I start to scratch my head when I think of it. One definition of "death" is the end of everything. It is when you don't feel anything anymore. It is when you don't exist anymore. But then, if there's life after death, then "death" is not realy "dead dead". It's kind of sleeping. So you get to live forever and you can't die. You never cease to exist. And apparently that is something good.

I'm reminded of José Saramago's book, Death with Interruptions. I didn't read it, but from what I heard, it is a story about when people stop dying. Religion collapses, because there's no need for it anymore. The economy also collapses, because the working class needs to support an ever increasing multitude of people who live forever.

On the other hand, I can see myself clinging to this hope of life after death. At my current stage of faith and my lack of it, I like to see small, modest signs of hope in the middle of dispair. I prefer to acknowledge the dispair and the hope.

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