Saturday, March 8, 2008

In lieu of doing the laundry

Gary took the boys to a matinee. This means the first bit of solitude I've had since last Sat. Waste it on laundry? Oh no.

I sensed a major grudging vibe from Gary when they were funneling out the door. Now that Scott is better I think he's forgotten that the effects of the week would still be very much with me. I suppose it would mollify him if I was to do the laundry while they were gone.

I might be willing to do some laundry if my ipod was working. My ipod is not working because Gary disconnected it (by just unplugging it, not ejecting it) while it was syncing the podcast I was planning to listen to. I like to download Diane Rehm's talk show--she has the best analysis of any news program I've come upon yet. When I can't listen to the regular news during the week (say, having a sick child) her domestic and international "News Roundups" every Friday help me feel filled in.

I have a problem with listening to the news as broadcast on the radio anyway. I wonder if it's like the blind-spot that exists in the visual system. There's one in my attentional system too: sometimes when I'm trying to pay attention my very effort distracts me from what I'm listening to and I miss something. It seems like it's usually something crucial to the point of the segment too. With the ipod I can at least replay a section I missed when a child called, or my mind did some associative journeys ("Ramallah, that sounds like Allah which reminds me of Karen Armstrong's book on the biography of God which reminds me of the book my father mentioned by Robert Spencer called 'Muhammed: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion'--guess that's a clue as to the nature of the book, eh?--and now Karen Armstrong is considered to be an 'apologist' for Islam so that nullifies her scholarly status? Wait a minute--what were they just saying?"). Chores don't feel like such a waste of time if I can at least be feeding my mind at the same time.

Scott's ped and I re-thought the plan to delay antibiotics. I went and picked them up Thursday afternoon and yesterday he was skipping.

During his sickness I was reflecting on the fact that not that long ago any illness was a legitimate cause for alarm; any sickness held the real threat of taking someone away.

Teri Gross interviewed a man a week or so ago: Bart Ehrmann. His latest book is called "God's Problem" and it's about the perplexing mystery of the presence of suffering in the world. It was his inability to reconcile it that caused him to leave his born-again Christian faith.

The presence of suffering is the mirror thrust into my face when I consider whether or not the world is a 'safe' or 'dangerous' place. There's a part of me that shrinks inside when I take joy in the 'miracle' of finding an alternative setting for schooling Scott.

It reminds me of a sort of prayer fad some years ago, where the prevailing wisdom was that "God wants you to be happy", and so don't be ashamed to pray for that new car..." Then the voice that scoffed, and really couldn't be dismissed: "You're praying for a car? You're thinking God will get you a car? Do you think the millions of people herded into concentration camps didn't pray for deliverance?"

I suppose the bottom line of that voice is that it's crazy-naive to consider that Life in an intentional way can offer an individual miracles. The voice says with suffering at such a massive scale that it's the ultimate in egocentrism to think that if I can hold a vision in mind (for example, where I want to be and what I want life to look like once this process regarding Gary and marriage and employment and education has moved) that I can trust that the universe will shape itself in such a way to make that a logical outcome.

So the voice does at least 2 things: one is to ridicule me for daring to consider the world a 'safe' place. One is to accuse me of self-centeredness. Another is to attempt to 'prove' to me logically that it's absurd to consider the world safe. So the ultimate function of that voice is to convince me that the world isn't safe and I can't live in trust in it. Is this the same 'voice' that informs those in decision-making places that we must waterboard prisoners to keep us 'safe'? That justifies the domestic spying program, and indeed there are many who say, 'take away my civil liberties; just keep me (and mine) safe.'

It causes me to wonder if this is a sort of primal schism that manifests itself in the organization we see in humans today: authoritarian vs libertarian? Or maybe both poles are about safety and the fundamental disagreement is about how to go about it? Authoritarians seek to preserve safety by doing things the ways that have always been done (stressing obedience to principles that have worked) and libertarians seek safety in innovation and independence of thought?

Do I have to be convinced that the world is 'safe' first in order to come to the midpoint which acknowledges that it is both safe, and unsafe? Intellectually of course I know it, but I think my emotional orientation has tilted toward 'unsafe'. Is coming to that midpoint from a place where more than my intellect, but the rest of me is on board--is that akin to eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?


Lori said...

Deep thoughts amid the darks and the linens.

I think you are on to something. We have lived in a world that increasingly things in either/or. Right/wrong. Us/them. Good/evil. Safe/unsafe. Fertile/barren.

Somehow, I intuit, we are heading to both. As we get there, things get messier.

And I don't know how to translate that into my everyday life.

Hot water or cold?

Mercurious said...

There are lots of ideas here, but I"ll comment on a couple:

First, I agree that the fad for praying for good things is one that needs to go away. That idea that God wants us to be rich, or thin, or have a great spouse, is just plain silly.

Secondly, I've also wondered a lot about the problem of suffering in the world. I've come to the conclusion that suffering has more to do with our limited way of perceiving the world, and not much to do with the actual nature of things.

If we saw correctly, things would appear as they are—infinite. (That's not my idea, but William Blake's).

So death and illness make us suffer because we think they are something to fear. Perhaps they're utterly natural, and therefore offer no reason to suffer.

Easier said than done, but I do know that I suffer less as I move in that direction.

excavator said...


Boy, I don't know. I like my baths hot in the winter and my drinks cold in the summer.

I'm a novice at physics, and it probably shows here, but I wonder if this polarization goes down into the very nature of matter: is light a particle, or a wave? If the electron isn't necessarily THERE, but only has a probability of being THERE, AND a chance of being somewhere else--how on earth can being exist with such a quirky foundation? So I can't help but wonder if the polarizations that manifest in humans might reflect this most existential of polarizations?


The aspect of suffering I think I'm obsessing on right now is human-inflicted. The fact that people will deliberately cause pain in others and play it like a violin shocks and horrifies me. And I guess that's not the only human-inflicted suffering I'm concerned about; it's also the permitting others to suffer, through indifference, or self-preservation, or even viewing the suffering of others as an abstraction.

And those of us with a nervous system have such capacity to experience marvelous sensations, yet also the vulnerability for the worst. This is a factor in the equation when I wonder: world = safe, or dangerous?