Let’s face it: For a lucky few, life will be a business of evenly rationed suffering: horrible parents to start off, the typical humiliations at school, common injuries throughout puberty, the love of your love doesn’t want to bother with you or cheats on you, maybe another love affair gone terribly wrong, even a marriage busted. Our parents die, we face our own steady demise. Sure, that’s enough suffering for a lifetime. The lucky ones will only have those few torturous moments. The rest will have to face the unspeakable – rape, murder, child abuse, dead children, torture. As if your daily world turned into gates of hell. Through no fault of your own.
Whenever we face suffering, most of us grew up with the idea that your pain is punishment for sinful behavior. Nice theory but not really worth discussing. Feels very Stone Age and too simple for all this complexity surrounding us. And whenever I read stories about dictators living swanky lives, I continue to believe that this theory might work intellectually for primates but not for humans.
So, when I entered the dark ages AKA puberty, I started to subscribe to the notion of suffering as a test or something to improve me, make me a better person. Frankly, this thinking helped me through a lot of surgeries, broken bones, broken hearts and lonely nights. But, in the back of my mind, I knew it was another bullshit theory to keep me from going nuts. When one of my best friends died of brain cancer, there was nothing redeeming about it. Nothing improved because of his suffering, nobody learned anything from it. It was just horrible to see him dying. Period. There goes that theory out the window.
Well, last but not least, there was still the hope that al our suffering is rewarded by eternal life in Heaven. Or as the bible says: “Heaven is where God will wipe away all tears from our faces.” At this point, I subscribe to Marilynne Robinson’s quote: “It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.”
Given all the suffering we experienced on a personal level and all over the world throughout my lifetime, I can’t even imagine how Heaven is going to make up for it. It might be a good idea for someone (God, Allah, Jehova, whatever) to wipe our tears off now. Or maybe I’m just going to peek over to the other side and check out this atheistic thing. Sounds pretty rational to me. And often more promising than waiting for Heaven.