Saturday, April 27, 2013

beloved horror

Mewling, simpering apologists are likely to come out of the woodwork -- all dulcet and cozening and oozing ill-concealed self-interest -- but still I think there is something to be said for it on a very personal level: Sweet juice depends on bitter fruit.

Yesterday, on the car radio, I caught an incomplete interview with an Evangelical Christian woman (I think she had written a book) who was talking about the hostile reception that religion can give to the world of psychological counseling.

She did not go into the gritty specifics, but she provided an instant street cred: A. She was an Evangelical Christian whose husband was studying to become a minister and B. The older of her two sons had returned from a Christian college, showed signs of distress that a mother might detect, and then committed suicide.

As I say, the woman did not go into the specific ways in which the institution that promoted her faith disdained the kind of help her son might have received, but, like other listeners, I filled in the blanks with my own biases: God cures all ills; the Bible has all the answers; no earthly answers can compare with the blessings of heaven; psychology is for the faithless and weak ....

Hell, I lean Buddhist and have heard the same stuff dressed in only slightly-differing robes.

And of course it is at this point that the cozening apologists will leap to the defense of their beloved Christianity or their beloved Buddhism or their beloved ... whatever is beloved: "Let me explain how it really is. It's not like that at all. Christianity/Buddhism/whatever is more thoughtfully benevolent and clear-headed than that. We don't do bad stuff. We only do the good stuff, the compassionate stuff, the wise stuff."

OK, apologists have institutions and jobs and income to defend and the 'benevolence' story is a pretty good story ... as far as it goes ... which may be pretty far. The camouflage can be pretty convincing.

But I sympathized with that Evangelical Christian woman whose son had committed suicide. I don't know to what extent the ethos of her faith contributed to her son's death and her subsequent anguish. But the anguish was no joke.

Is there anyone, spiritually-inclined or otherwise, who does not set out in search of some sweet juice? Little and large, philosophical or psychological, who hasn't set out on the search for the Wizard of Oz? I don't mean that in some snotty sense ... I mean it in the sense of something beloved and hopeful and ... yes, indeed ... sweet.

That search is attended by many tales -- supportive and encouraging tales, stuff that promotes action on behalf of what is beloved. The tales build spires that twinkle in the sun: God is great.

But the sweetness will never be as sweet as it can be until the bitterness of all sweet tales is addressed. There is literally nothing, no matter how sweet the tale, that does not carry with it honest horror stories. This is not bad or cynical or a reason to shy from what is beloved. It is just the way things are built.

Perhaps, as it seems to me, it is as if a person were to hold two tennis balls, one in each hand, held in arms extended forward. The tennis balls are of equal weight and color and usefulness. They both pertain to the game at hand ... the game of what is beloved. The game can be played with one ball, but if only one ball is employed, the game is slowed, the sweetness is diminished and the land of Oz remains a fairy tale and a knock-off.

Holding the tennis balls, anyone might feel their weight, see their reality. You can only play with one ball at a time, but denying the other ball is to deny the game its delight ... the payoff sought in what is beloved.

Personally, lightly and with certainty -- let the institution and philosophy suck an egg -- hold what is beloved and the horrors of which it is capable close. What is beloved is sweet. It is to die for, perhaps. What is anguished is horrid and bitter. It is to die for, perhaps.

Do not deny the one in favor of the other ... that just prolongs the search for sweetness. Using attention and responsibility, gather your beloved strength. Let nothing stand in your way. Hold these balls lightly and without fear ...

Then toss one in the air ...

And find the sweet spot.

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