Friday, January 26, 2007

Needless v. Needful Suffering...

When it comes to suffering, there seems to be almost universal agreement that "needless suffering" is wrong. But why the need for the word "needless" in there? It strongly implies that there is such a thing as NEEDFUL suffering. It is a concept not spoken of directly, the phrase gets no usage.

That said, it does seem that many troubles in society are the result of a judgment that needful suffering is acceptable. Many governments, corporations, and individuals are in the business of condoning needful suffering (often from afar). But don't blame them outright... the urge to cause and experience a multiplicity of sufferings lies within us all. It is clearly a fundamental part of the human condition and the basis of many religions. Still, I'm not exactly sure what needful suffering might be.

Is needful suffering the pain of innocent people who lose family members in the course of a "just" war? Is it the last ten minutes of a mass murderer's life in the execution chamber? Is it Christ on a cross? Is it the guilty payback an unconsciously masochistic CEO brings upon herself? Is it the inhumane processes of an industry that supplies meat to the masses? Is it the waterboarding of terrorist suspects? Is it childbirth?

Busy Americans tolerate a war that happens over there. But the fabric of our nation changes radically when something bad happens on our soil. There seems to be an undercurrent in this vengeful world that certain types of suffering should occur as long as we (you or I) don't have to inflict it or witness it. Armies and executioners do much of the heavy lifting for our dark wishes and agendas as well as our sense of justice. Maintaining an "out of sight/out of mind" mentality, and enjoying the fruits of countless unsavory, undeclared actions are key ingredients to the illusion of civilization. Maybe, Jack Nicholson was right.

("Helen Keller and Phiz" photo circa 1902)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Needful suffering? Phiz needs to join the Polar Bear Club. It would do him a lot of good.

2:31 PM  

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