Artificial byproduct or precious goal?

October 18, 2013

Well, I’m glad somebody had more patience with the NYTimes and their focus on debunking faith than I do.  There’s a letter today that talks about the writer’s research finding that people who endure trauma need their faith.

This way of stating the scientist perspective makes it easier to see the resolution:  faith is both a byproduct of trauma and a goal of development.

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations of late have talked about the role of suffering in our spiritual development, including today’s.  Religion and the letter writer (Shane Sharp, an assistant professor of sociology at Northern Illinois University) are in agreement:  trauma can result in the state of mind of faith.

Scientists seem to think of this result as an artificial state of mind, while the religious camp sees it as reaching a desirable goal.  They are describing the same thing, only characterizing it differently.  The disagreement is all about the adjectives, the judgment of the phenomenon.

That leads to the questions of, why we are judging the phenomenon, how we should judge it, by what criteria are we judging it, etc.

But it also, for me, provides the unification of the two competing camps:  the phenomenon occurs, our need to appraise it is just our human need, not one that exists outside of ourselves.

At the highest reaches of the universe there is no appraising and judging.  It is the state of achieving “Let it be.”  In scientific circles I thought we focus on the objective and withhold our editorial response.

We can all just rest on the narrow point of equilibrium that suffering produces the phenomenon of faith, that faith exists.

Some of us celebrate it, some of us deride it, some of us rely on it, some of us wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.  But we agree that the phenomenon exists.

That, to me, is an example of how we bridge a perceived gap.


15 Responses to “Artificial byproduct or precious goal?”

  1. James Koppel Says:

    On a Kabbalistic level, God so values our prayers that He will withhold or postpone just to savor the fervency of our supplications. This supports and explains the nexus of your post.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      Well, I could agree that there must be a view of this phenomenon from God’s perspective. It may well be that from that vantage point, it looks as though our surrender needs to be bigger, deeper, more intense, and repeated, but I would question whether God is savoring or just is.

  2. Richard Says:

    Certain faith seem to acknowledge and even embrace suffering. Jewish, Catholic and Buddhist teching immediately come to mind. Others seem to go the other direction. Evangelicals of all faiths and the Calvinist dogma that spawns religion as a means to obtain success and wealth seem to go in the opposite direction.

    I have been reading Rohr’s blogs as well and they remind me that acknowledgement of suffering, fears and failure (among other things deemed as negative) is necessary to move on and grow, especially spiritually.

    AA also has a phrase Rohr reminded me of (and I’m kind of paraphrasing here) ”Let us not forget our past but also not repeat it” (or something like that).

    Embrace the suffering for what it is, but have the faith that you and your God can recover. I’ve been toying with the idea that when we suffer, our God does too. Sort of like the suffering Jesus archetype among others.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      For me, God just is. I can see God’s energy when it is embodied in other forms suffering with us, kind of like adding contrast medium to something to make it show up on imaging, but I see God more as being like the core of a star. Which points up my tendency to connect outwards with “Brahman” (God in heaven?) instead of inwards with “Atman” (the Spirit within us?). Anyway, I do think elements of the cosmos hear our suffering and suffer empathetically with us — I just think that eventually that “suffering energy” gets discharged at the highest reaches as something neutral, stripped of its characteristics that we experience as suffering, like successive rinses in washing a piece of clothing. The suffering Jesus can connect us from our consuming human suffering to higher reaches, maybe?

      • Diana Moses Says:

        I just wanted to add an analogy. I went through a period during which I was changing a lot of diapers and cleaning up a lot of elderly-canine regurgitation. After a certain point, it’s just bodily fluids, for want of a better broad neutral term, and you just do it without reacting to it. I don’t say that I can necessarily learn to do that with respect to things that cause me physical pain or acute emotional distress, but I think it’s possible at other levels of the universe. Kind of like seeing an incident as neither accident nor negligence nor malice, the event happened, period, no coloration about why or how. So I think suffering for us humans is a very human thing.

  3. Richard Says:

    Nice analogy

  4. Richard Says:

    Well, in most cases (not all) the suffering is the human attachment we associate to it. When that can be peeled away, much of the suffering subsides

  5. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    To all who are interested in the relationship between faith and suffering, I can recommend “As I am,” the autobiography of Patricia Neal.

    For those too young to remember her, she was the lead actress in the 1951 film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,’ and saved the day by saying to the robot (who had just vaporized two armed soldiers) “Klaatu Barada Nikto !”

    She was only about 25 or 26 then, but went on to a good career. Then, at 39, she suffered several severe strokes or “cerebrovascular accidents” as some doctors prefer to call them in younger persons. Some newspapers reported her death.

    She suffered terribly. She had to learn to talk again, and even when she could her mind and memory was much less than before. This experience destroyed her faith and belief in God.

    Yet ultimately, after visiting a convent, she learned to cope with her anger and converted to catholicism.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      Was she also on some game shows later?

      • Jeff in New Jersey Says:

        Very probably.

        She was brain-damaged for the rest of her life and could only do lesser or bit acting parts even after learning how to speak again. Her natural organization and good memory for script lines was gone. But she had won Best Actress in the Academy Awards of 1963. Her many friends in the theater and film world tried to help her.

        Yet even within her own family, she was treated as a “secondary person” by her children and often ignored.

        Though not an intellectual type she was certainly very talented, and took her wife and mother duties seriously. Before the strokes, she conceived two children within fifteen months, One was born after her strokes at 39. Some people have a congenital weakness where artery walls in the brain become thinner and thinner and finally let go.

        She was a good public speaker and visited many rehabilitation centers to encourange other recovering victims.

  6. Richard Says:

    Patricia Neal was in ”Breakfast at Tiffany’s and just before her death a fimm called ”Three Secrets”

    I seem to remember her in coffee comercials as well. My library does not have the book mentioned, though it sounds interesting. I have worked with post-tbi people over the years

  7. Richard Says:

    Whoops, sorry. It was a 1950 film re-released in 2012

  8. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    She was in coffee commercials for a time, and this was a good source of income for her. Her brilliant-writer husband (Roald Dahl) was a not-so-nice man. While she was recovering from the strokes, he insisted on sex, which was pure agony for her in her half-paralyzed condition.

    Even though the coffee commercials referred only to “her husband” and how she prepared good coffee for him, Dahl insisted upon substantial payments from the coffee advertiser even though he was not named, but merely referred to indirectly.

    They got tired of that sort of thing and brought the advertising to an end, even though they were fully satisfied with Patricia.

  9. Richard Says:

    , how people behave

  10. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    You ought to read Patricia’s book. Not highly organized, but logical recollections of her life. And undoubtedly truthful. She admits even her “bad thoughts.”

    When she had the first stroke, the result was not too serious and she could answer her husband when he asked whether the pain was always in the same place. When she said it was, his medical knowledge allowed him to see how serious it was so he immediately called a neurological surgeon.

    Dahl was a very successful writer. For one screenplay, he earned more money than had Patricia in her entire acting career. Very successful writer of children’s books.

    Some women are much attracted by intellectual men. Yet Dahl was a first-class, promise-breaking, cynical jerk she should never have married. She gave him everything a woman has to give. Her book chronicles what she received in return.

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