Written by Philip Monroe
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 00:00
If you are not a fan of David Brooks you should be. David is a New York Times columnist who seems to be hitting it out of the park on a weekly basis in his columns. In his most recent editorial (April 7), he says this:
People shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.
He then makes it clear that while suffering may produce good results, it isn’t something that has intrinsic good value. We may cherish the results, but we never cherish the suffering. Here’s what Brooks thinks about what suffering does (or can do) to us:
But the big thing that suffering does is it takes you outside of precisely that logic that the happiness mentality encourages. Happiness wants you to think about maximizing your benefits. Difficulty and suffering sends you on a different course.
What course? He goes on to suggest that suffering provides the opportunity to (what follows are my interpretation of his points):
- Remove self-deception
- Acknowledge limitations of personal agency
- Answer a calling to a greater good (We are not “masters of the situation but neither are [we] helpless”)
- Recognize and submit to the “moral drama” of life (Brooks says pursue “holiness”)
But lest you think he portrays this deepening of self into selflessness as easy and as a way of healing from the ravages of suffering, he reminds us that,
Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Many people don’t come out healed; they come out different.
Yes, different. The challenge I find is holding, “This is not the way life is supposed to be” together with an acceptance of difference without falling off into the errors of embittered denial or hopeless fatalism.
I encourage you to check out some of his recent columns. His The Art of Presence is a fine reminder of how to be with suffering people.