Bringing in the big guns

A woman close to Sue and me has survived breast cancer twice, even though she’s only in her 30’s. They thought they got it all. They didn’t. Now it’s metastasized and is on bones in several areas. She started radiation and some chemo today. She can no longer walk and is in a wheelchair. They hope the meds will enable her to walk again in a couple of months. Meanwhile, she’ll be going through many tests, radiation, and chemo.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Theologians call it “the question of evil, ” and it is of course unanswerable by logic. The answer comes from somewhere deep within. As does the courage to keep on hoping and trying, and not giving up.


  1. I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I hope she recovers.

    As to the problem of evil, here’s my opinion for what it’s worth: The classic question of the Judeo-Christian theologians is called “theodicy“– “If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, how can He allow evil to exist?” Various philosophers and theologians have come to different answers to this riddle– and certain varieties of modern American Christianity seem to explain it by limiting God’s power and saying that Satan holds sway here on earth. But within the framework of orthodox Christian theology there can be only one answer: evil does not exist. What we think of as evil is merely stuff we don’t like and don’t understand the reason for.

    For a long time, I didn’t believe this. Surely, for example, the Nazi extermination camps were a manifestation of evil. Yet when I read the philosophy of Viktor Frankl, which was so profoundly influenced by his experience as a resident in the camps, I have to ask: could something so good come out of something that was pure evil? No, it could not.

    To be clear, I would never wish that kind of suffering on anyone, and I have worked and will continue to work to end suffering caused by human violence. But when God challenges us with what sometimes seem to be unspeakable trials, we as human beings often respond by rising to levels not otherwise possible. That doesn’t mean we have to like it, and indeed I believe that the greatest work we can do is to work to end the suffering caused by acts of ignorance and selfishness. But it doesn’t make those acts evil, either.

    A paradox: Adversity builds character– yet we seek to shield ourselves and others from adversity. It is an odd existence we mortals live.

  2. “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” Sigh.

  3. A couple of years ago I went through stage one with my wife, and I openly questioned “The Cancer Industry’s” motives, Adam Smith and all that… cost me/i> twenty-eight thousand dollars. Now I’m not so sure.

    We seem to be living beyond our means…

  4. One of the most profound experiences I’ve had was to visit Varanasi, India, which is considered a holy place for Hindus to die. Shortly after my arrival, I observed a funeral procession: dozens of men and women dancing in the street, following a wooden stretcher on which lay the flower-covered body of an old man. They took the stretcher down to the banks of the Ganges River, set it on a pile of wood, lit it on fire, and watched it burn. Afterwards, the ashes were thrown into the river.

    Environmental aspects aside, this was the first time I’d seen death dealt with as what it is: an inevitable and natural part of our life cycle. In contrast, Americans spend literally billions of dollars treating death as a disease that needs to be cured– and feared. The Indian approach is clearly more cost-effective. Which approach do you suppose supports better emotional health?

    Ram Dass, the former Harvard professor turned guru, says something interesting: “The one thing you need to know about death is that it’s perfectly safe.” That’ll bend an American mind just a little– and makes one question the role of Adam Smith in medicine.

Comments are closed.