Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Is Suffering Good? (Letters)

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Is Suffering Good? (Letters)

Article excerpt

To the Editor: I appreciated "Is Suffering the Enemy?" (HCR, March-April 2002) by Richard B. Gunderman. A portion of one paragraph, in particular, caught my attention. The author stated, "We are made for greater things: to explore, to illuminate, to enliven and enrich, to help complete what nature herself is not able to bring to a finish. We are not gods, creating light out of our darkness, giving from to the void, bringing meaning to nothingness, but finite creatures whose life task it is to find peace and harmony with the larger reality of which we are but a part." . . .

The author has implied that we are "co-creators" with "nature herself." With that in mind, I would invite the author to consider that "making something out of nothing" and creating "light out of the darkness" and "order out of chaos" are metaphors. Understood this way, his article, albeit in a limited way, may bring light to a darkened understanding and may even bring some order to an otherwise chaotic period in the life of one who may be attempting to find meaning and purpose in their suffering.

 
Chaplain Douglas A. Wigginton 
Department of Veterans' Affairs 
Medical Center 
Alexandria, La. 

To the Editor: Richard B. Gunderman urges us to consider the ennobling aspects of suffering as well as its detrimental effects. He points to the classics of literature--Aeschylus, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, the Book of Job-as guides. These writings are classics precisely because they-permit readers or viewers to experience human suffering without actually having to live through it or die from it. Catharsis through art is fine; pain and suffering in real life are another matter.

Of course, some people who have suffered greatly and survive transcend the experience and lead different and more reflective lives. Some people, however, are left embittered and permanently scarred emotionally and physically. And some--perhaps most--find ways to put their suffering in a private space in their hearts, where few can enter and none can share. Who is to say which response is more valid or more human? …

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