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January 24, 2013

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Our chances of meeting death are still 100%, but we rarely contemplate this because we rarely bump into this reality.

I think about it every day. This is an interesting post because it is the exact opposite of what I have been thinking for a while--that my preoccupation with my own mortality is unhealthy.

While I (think) I understand the basic idea behind these feelings, writings like these sound to me a lot like self-gratifying and not entirely honest, a version of white guilt. There are plenty of places in the world (majority in fact) where there is no modern medicine and death and suffering is very much part of everyday of life. Are these people in a better position then we are, do they understand the dilemmas of life and mortality better? If so, there is nothing forcing one to live in the first world.

I am not telling Hall is entirely wrong, but some perspective is in place.

Hi Erkki S, you said

"Are these people in a better position then we are, do they understand the dilemmas of life and mortality better?"

I think the answer to this depends on what you are asking. Amy, it seems to me made it clear that physical harms or difficulties can and usually do make people better persons. She supported it by a biblical reference...and there are many others btw.

My answer to your question is yes, if such suffering leads one to cry out to God for relief instead of looking to medicine/bank account/property for relief. I think the order of where you go first for relief says a lot.

One of my favorite Proverbs is 30:7-9:

Pro 30-7 "Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die:
Pro 30:8 Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion,
Pro 30:9 That I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the LORD?" Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God."

[i]I think the answer to this depends on what you are asking. Amy, it seems to me made it clear that physical harms or difficulties can and usually do make people better persons.[/i]

I'm really not convinced that this is generally true. Certainly, there are people who face death and suffering and gain perspective and I guess some form of "enlightenment" from these experiences. Others just die, become depressed or become even worse. Tyrants breed tyrants and poverty breeds revolutions and violence. I don't think the child soldiers in Africa or uneducated poor in India are becoming really someway "better" for their experiences, and it is certainly very patronizing from us in the luxuries of First World to fetishize their suffering in this manner.

[i]My answer to your question is yes, if such suffering leads one to cry out to God for relief instead of looking to medicine/bank account/property for relief. I think the order of where you go first for relief says a lot.[/i]

There is little doubt that desperation can make person cry out for a god, but this seems intellectually poor reason for a faith. Starving man will pay his entire fortune for a bread, but this does not make bread that valuable.

Sorry for the wrong tag for italics, I usually write on a website that uses [k] and my muscle memory beat me.

It seems pretty clear that Amy was addressing a first world crowd in her post. She wasn't fetishing others' suffering. She was saying that we in the first world have a tendency to not think about death because A) we don't have to much of the time due to medical & technological advances and B) it is a common feature to avoid things that bring us pain or worry and we, as a culture, do a lot fo anesthetize ourselves from doing so.

She even says she doesn't want to go back to the days where a broken leg equals death. She is simply saying that our Western culture, for all the good it has brought, has also allowed a mindset where we don't think about death or the unpleasant things of life and that the Biblical perspective is that such things can actually produce good in us.

Darth Dutch

Erkki, there is a cost to everything–even good things–in a fallen world because we are fallen. Our sin destroys everything. It hurt people when we had no antibiotics, it hurts people when we do. It does so in different ways, but there is always, always a cost. May we always try to fight against the particular cost our culture is currently paying.

I wrote this post because I was feeling sincerely grateful that I'm alive because minor surgeries are possible. But in thinking about my own mortality because of this, I was thinking about how our sin can corrupt and destroy us even in the best situations (e.g., in a place with medical advances). Every human everywhere wants to ignore God, and our comfort here aids us in that twisted desire. Something else might aid someone in a different culture. Again, we need to be aware of our particular cultural dangers if we're going to push back against them in our own lives.

Well I might have judged the original post too harshly. I agree that there is a problem in our culture in that we have insulated ourselves much from the harms of the world and suffering, which often causes us to ignore harmful consumption and exported violence, not to mention the spiritual implications and shallowness caused by this.

It is the fourth paragraph that rubbed me in a bad way, because I do not instantly agree that we are as culturally "sick" as conservatives might think. (I do not live in the US so obviously this is a limited perspective.) While there is nothing wrong in admiring, for example, the haunting beauty of Eero Järnefelts Wage Slaves (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eero_Järnefelt), or the writings of Dickens one should remember that these romantic images came with a tremendous cost of human suffering and unromantic desolution. Hence my call for perspective.

Erkki S.

"I agree that there is a problem in our culture in that we have insulated ourselves much from the harms of the world and suffering,"

Fortunately I have been spared this fate. :)
I have been sickly most of my life and had to wait for close to 10 years for a hernia operation...thanks to the land of opportunity. So, when I hear about how good we have it under capitalism where you don't have to wait for medical treatment like you do in communist states, I want to throw up on the shoes of the person that says it. ;) Right now I feel particularly sick to my stomach so, I am pretty sure I can manage it.

Well said, Amy. My wife and I have talked about this ourselves. In the USA and other well developed countries, the majority of people don't want for anything. We have access not only to medical treatments, etc. but also food and clothes and anything at the click of a mouse.

We've become so self-reliant that a lot of people only turn to God when tragedy befalls them. They ask why bad things have happened, yet when things are going well, they have no need for Him. It is my prayer that people start realizing before it's too late all the worship and praise God really deserves.

(Hope you feel better, Louis)!

I read a wonderful remark the other day that stated: "What if you woke up today with only things you thanked God for yesterday?" It puts a lot of things into perspective....

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