Meaning of Pain or the Lack Thereof ~ BitterSweetLife

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Meaning of Pain or the Lack Thereof

Evil Exit

Pain is a throw-away category in far too many systems of belief, and has resulted in far too many lives being thrown away. If the things I suffer have no meaning, are the inevitable result of karma, are the recriminations of an unappeasable God—then why bother?

I think the weak portrayal of pain is especially pronounced in the faith known variously as materialism or naturalism or Darwinism or atheism. Not only does pain serve no ultimate purpose in a purely material world; its very existence is inexplicable and cannot be posited. Pain is a symptom without a cause.

If I cannot explain the existence of a thing called Good, much less its alter-ego, Evil, then I have no basis for complaining when one happens to me instead of the other. Life is ultimately meaningless, “red in tooth and claw” and governed by a truly chaotic law: blind chance.

The fact that you think something is Good is purely arbitrary. And so is the fact that you think something is Evil. You may as well laugh about the “tragedy” you are crying over, because it may equally be considered a great stroke of luck. (“Don’t you weep/There is nothing as lucky/As easy/As free…We’ll lay in bags as dead as leaves/all together/for eternity”—Bright Eyes)

If this is the way things are, we had better adjust. Either that or deliberately choose a fantasy and forego reality with our eyes open. But the fact is, very few people can live as if Good and Evil (and thus pleasure and pain) are haphazard constructs of the slapdash human mind. This is no accident.

We suspect, no, we are convinced (in spite of ourselves) that there really is a difference between pain and pleasure, Evil and Good. But how to account for it? Materialism utterly fails. Only Christ explains life’s bewildering context in all its gritty bittersweetness.

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Will Robison said...

So how does Christ explain the need for pain and suffering? Didn't He die so that we don't need pain and suffering any more?

Ariel said...

Hey Will, on one level, what you say is absolutely true.

Taking the long view, pain and suffering have already been defeated by Christ. Not even death poses a problem to people who know Jesus intimately. To put this in my framework, I'd say that the above is the reason that while life is bittersweet, the sweet wins out.

On the immediate, existential, short view level, though, pain is obviously still with us. Evil and sin, and thus, pain, is a reality explained and verified by the Bible, and spoken to by Christ.

It's on this second, immediate level that I find very few other worldviews with much to say re: why we experience "suffering" and "evil" as such?

Why are humans aware of such distinctions, and why are we capable of perpetrating the most horrific types of evil on each other? What is the solution to this problem, and how do we find meaning in life's bitter situations?

The answers to these questions are not forthcoming from the pundits of popular religion or popular culture.

Paul said...

I think you are right that Christianity gives us the best perspective about pain. Pain is an essential part of life, at least as we know it. It reminds us that things are not what they should be.

I also love how God uses the pain and failures or our lives to produce some of the greatest successes we will experience. When we have a "weak portrayal" of pain we will miss out on how God uses it to change our lives.

As always I appreciated your thoughts.

Andy said...

And to add to Paul's comment, God uses our pain to help someone else through theirs - I know what it is like to lose a close relative, and if a friend is going through it for the first time, I can draw upon my own experience to help that individual.

That charity, that love, we share with that person is the "sweet" part of the "bitter" pain that we previously felt.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife