Monday, November 8, 2010

The Myth of a Life Without Suffering

There is an article in the Wall street Journal called Mothering Madness. Carl Olson does a long fisk of it here. It just struck me how her argument went. Motherhood has some big challenges. Therefore motherhood should be avoided. The same logic leads to many abortions. Raising a child is going to be a long, hard struggle. But that is the end of the thinking. There is an unspoken premise. That the life we choose could or should be anything other than a long, hard struggle. We just accept that without argument. That somehow the default is a suffering-free life.

Do we know anyone who has had such a thing? We can point to people who superficially seem to be free from suffering. They might be rich, healthy, good looking, etc. But typically we don't know these people very well at all. When we know them well enough to know if they are truly pain-free then often we find the answer is No. But is the absence of pain a good way to happiness? We can take the "don't worry, be happy" approach to life. But to not worry is to not love. Do we want to go there? Often going there involves taking drugs because we are not designed to not care. But caring involves suffering.

I remember a professor I had at Calvin College. He said that when choosing courses that most mistakes are made when people choose course A over course B because A is easier. That kind of stuck with me. Taking the easier road leads to more mistakes. It does not mean we should go looking for a hard life. It means that when we try and avoid it we should have red flags go up. Is avoiding suffer being achieved by ignoring some important cost? Suffering has the ability to skew our reasoning. We can't see why taking the hard course will matter much anyway.

One thing that has mattered to me is looking at how the saints approached suffering. None of them had an easy life. So if I want to be a saint why should I desire an easy life? Is that the path to holiness? Maybe taking the harder course will benefit us somehow.

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