Oct 25 Fear: Unstory – the Greatest Horror Story of them All

 

A man briefly leaves his pregnant wife to fly to his dying mother, a mother who endured one last round of chemo not in any hope of remission, but merely to eke out a few more months in order to see her grandchild born. His mother dies two hours before he arrives. He stays for her funeral, missing his own child’s birth by a few hours, too. A youngster complaining of “arthritis” is dismissed because his range of motion is large, not small. His complaint thus “disproven”, he gets on with life, or tries to. Decades later, body gratuitously dilapidated and his stoicism rendered meaningless, he learns his flexibility was the one objective clue that, if heeded, could have prevented a world of hurt – even kept him off disability – but now it’s too late. Albert Camus dies in a car crash – with a train ticket in his pocket: he was supposed to take the train, but his publisher persuaded him at the last minute to go by car instead. His death, while fittingly comedic for an absurdist, existentialist Frenchman, is not “meaningful” otherwise – it’s only distinguished by its contingency, by how easily it might not have happened.

Suffering needn’t be particularly intense to seem intensely meaningless. Even suffering that’s just big enough to be unsafe to ignore, but still too “small” to explain, may qualify. There are many forms of suffering that hurt the body, but it is suffering without a story that hurts the soul. And that’s where the story of Job comes in, because Job’s story is the unstory – the story that happens when there is no story. Job’s story is that nothing – not even God – takes away life’s absurdity – life’s refusal to fit our narratives. Perhaps it’s even God’s greater story that makes absurdity possible.

AI researcher (and former Trump university officer) Roger Schank notes that in ordinary conversation, we don’t judge intelligence by sophisticated problem-solving skills, but by storytelling ability. Conversation is the mutual exchange of stories, and when people seems to understand our stories, and respond with pleasing stories of their own, we naturally judge them quite intelligent! The most basic form of intelligence, he says, is simply finding the right story to tell at the right time, perhaps even creating stories well in advance so we don’t even have to think when it comes time to answer for ourselves, just remember. Memory, moreover, is largely a matter of stories. Direct experience may be the raw stuff of memory, but when experience doesn’t fit into a story, it’s awfully hard to remember. So hard to remember, in fact, that we tend to remember stories about our experiences better than the experiences themselves.

But what if there is no story? What if there’s a huge chunk of your life that doesn’t fit neatly into a story? That fits so poorly into any story that it’s impossible to deny the possibility that any story anyone tells about it is pure confabulation? What then do you have to say for yourself when people expect you to account for your existence? The short answer is: nothing. No matter the intensity of your experience, no matter your IQ or the state of your soul, if you cannot tell a story about it, with few exceptions, it has no social existence. Moreover, the story you tell of it must be a story your audience understands and accepts. No wonder Job got into trouble.

If you had asked Job’s friends before calamity struck whether he deserved the calamities that were about to befall him, I’m sure they would have said no. Once calamity struck, though, Job’s friends were full of stories to explain Job’s predicament, and why he probably deserved it. Job, rather rudely, rejected their stories, and offered no story in return. He realized that attempts to impose the stories his friends offered upon his experience would have been dishonest, even though rejecting them also (needlessly, in his friends’ eyes) amplified his suffering. Having no credible story, Job just wanted to die. I doubt this is a coincidence. A story that’s run out is, as one blogger put it, “like living in the epilog of reality”. Loss of a storybound life is theorized as one cause of the rising suicide rate among poor whites, as Deaton, coauthor of the famous Case and Deaton paper, noted.

Job’s rejection of their stories, and his offer of nothing but unstory in return – only a complaint to God, “Why do You hide my own story from me? Don’t I deserve to know?” – so appalls his friends that at one point, one friend wishes for even more condemnation upon Job’s head, to “double Job’s prudence” and teach him once and for all that he couldn’t not have deserved much more punishment than he’d already gotten! [11:6] Worse, Job’s friends, though wrong, aren’t exactly being unreasonable. For it is indeed reasonable to use the fact that calamity has struck as evidence that the calamity was deserved.

Conservatives pride themselves in their belief in Consequences, those copybook gods, and having encountered disaster does increase the likelihood that you deserved it in a Bayesian sense. But Consequences are also a means of imposing our stories upon the world, even when those stories are spurious. Copybook stories are very easy to tell, after all – any good conservative is expected to have a rich inventory of them, ready to go at a moment’s notice. And Bayesian inference makes them legitimately plausible. But, as Job recognized while his friends regaled him with one story of Consequences after another, plausibility does not make them all true. Our copybook gods are also a narrative bias.

Some researchers of cognitive bias, like Kahneman and Tversky, disbelieve that humans reason in a Bayesian way. Others, like ET Jaynes, point out that the problem with flesh-and-blood humans is that they’re capable of much more sophisticated Bayesian reasoning than researchers may have in mind, and that researchers’ failure to see this and account for the fact that their subjects may not share all the same information or pursue the same goals as the researchers explains many instances of supposed “cognitive bias”. (p 162) One sticking point, though, is, that no matter how perfect our reasoning, we’re forced to rely on memory to have something to reason about.

Many of us are pretty well acquainted with the vagaries of our own memory, and there’s reason to believe that several cognitive biases can be explained, not by poor reasoning, but by reasoning correctly on a noisy memory channel. One cognitive bias not mentioned in this noisy-memory analysis, though, is narrative bias. And yet narrative bias fits into this framework, too, if we return to Schank’s observations about what recalling a memory does. Recalling a memory selectively strengthens its signal, making it less likely than other memories to get lost in the noise. Memories are easier to recall as part of stories – stories are a sort of lossy memory compression. It doesn’t take an AI expert to make the commonplace observation that memories attached to stories are easier to remember. What’s interesting, though, is how little human narrative bias may depend on faulty reasoning rather than lossy memory. We like to think of our biases as something we can reason ourselves out of if we try hard enough. But maybe we can’t.

So strong is our narrative bias that we cannot accept Job’s unstory, either, unless it is framed by a story. And so the prolog to the Book of Job tells us a story of how Job “earned” his suffering because his exceptional goodness attracted God’s attention and consequently Satan’s cross-examination, and so the privilege of being the rope in a cosmic game of tug-of-war. The epilog informs us that when the game was over, Job was richly rewarded for his troubles – as if having more and “better” sons and daughters could somehow make up for the loved ones Job had lost! But note that, although we are given a story to frame Job’s suffering, Job is given none:

When God answers Job out of the whirlwind, He doesn’t say, “Well, you see, Satan and I made a bet about you,” the gist of the story described the the prolog. Instead, God impresses upon Job how little Job truly understands about the cosmos, that Creation is not Job’s to control or justify, a lesson that Job already understood much better than his friends. Ironically, it is Job, not his friends, who repents for having “uttered what [he] did not understand”. [42:3] For if Job is guilty of that sin, how much more so are they? Job merely challenged God’s apparent justice. Job’s friends wrongfully attributed “justice” to God.

But because Job was the only one willing to admit the story he was living was absurd – was unstory rather than story – Job is the only one who can repent. Job’s friends are too trapped in their addiction to plausible narratives to realize their error. As God says, only Job spoke of God what is right, [42:7] something Job’s friends, founts of copybook moralizing all, somehow managed not to do. [43:8] And therefore it is up to Job, the man without a story, the man whose story is unstory, to intercede on behalf of his storytelling pals.

The greatest horror story of all is that Job spoke rightly of God, while his friends did not – that Job correctly perceived unstory where his friends insisted on story. The greatest horror story of all for a human being is for there to be no story, or at least no story we can know.

Christians should bristle at this claim – the Christian story is, after all, not just a story, but the story, encompassing the cosmos! Moreover, all of us, whether Christian or not, need the world to be morally intelligible: our sanity, our productivity, our virtue – all that we are responsible for in this life – depend on it. And how could we make the world morally intelligible without stories? How could we recall what we must remember in order to do the right thing (or at least what we believe is the right thing, based on our stories) without them?

But purchasing the world’s moral intelligibility in story form comes at a cost. If we demand that everything, no matter how vexing, have a satisfying story, if we believe it is not only narrative bias, but also a moral duty, to banish what DB Hart calls the “intolerable remainder”, the “irrational surd” of memories and experiences which satisfy no intelligible story from our own and others’ lives, we may derive

some comfort… from the thought that everything that occurs… is governed not only by a transcendent providence but by a universal teleology that makes every instance of pain and loss and indispensable moment in a grand scheme whose ultimate synthesis will justify all things. But one should consider the price at which that comfort is purchased: it requires us to believe in and love a God whose good ends will be realized not only in spite of – but entirely because of – every cruelty, every fortuitous misery, every catastrophe, every betrayal, every sin the world has ever known… It is a strange thing indeed to seek peace in a universe rendered morally intelligible at the cost of a God rendered morally loathsome.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings are indeed powerful, and ancient, but there’s no reason to believe they’re omnipotent. Their neat, storybook causality cannot be appealed to as the omnicompetent moral lesson for everything. Life is too absurd for that. “Thus far, and no farther” does the reign of the copybook gods extend – whatever sets the bounds of the sea, Semitic shorthand for that “irrational surd”, also reciprocally sets a bound on them. [38:11] Only God knows where that boundary is, and there’s no compelling reason to believe He’d tell us if He wouldn’t tell Job. And though it’s an article of conservative faith that the copybook gods serve the God (or whatever we call what is true and just in the universe), they are not that God. (Deride Him as a God of the Marketplace if you must – the cosmos was never contained in any book, not even copybooks.)

A God expected to be the central vac installed in the house of reality to hoover up moral entropy by explaining away the absurd is a God that fails. The best we can hope for is a God that makes recognition of absurdity possible. After all, “Nonsense does not presuppose meaning, while absurdity does.”

Seen in this light, either the apparent values of life and love are merely illusory, or else God is the only being that is not absurd. Only God’s existence and love are necessary and eternal.

“Perhaps these reflections therefore provide us with a definition of God. God is the background against which we perceive absurdity: God is the absolute meaning that makes absurdity possible. Just as we could not perceive a figure except against a contrasting background, so too we cannot grasp the absurdity of contingency and finality except through contrast with the eternal divine. Thus absurdity at once poses the greatest challenge to belief in God, while at the same time we cannot perceive absurdity except through contrast with a concept of God.

Has one little-known writer, in 2008 of all years, managed to hit upon the one definition of God worth a damn? Doubtful. But is there more sense in accepting the role of absurdity – of unstories – in a godly life than there is in insisting that a God’s existence – even that God’s revelation to and communion with humans – renders Creation morally intelligible to humans, with no “intolerable remainders”? Yes. Should we, as Hart puts it, be “satisfied with unjustified faith when its only role is to restore harmony among our beliefs and perceptions”? With “sentiments” in the face of the absurd that “amount not only to an indiscretion or words spoken out of season, but to a vile stupidity and a lie told principally for our own comfort, by which we would try to excuse ourselves for believing in an omnipotent and benevolent God”? No.

Job was not satisfied with stories. Not even the most sincerely pious of copybook stories. Job had no reason to be. And yet Job remained faithful, the only one even able to repent before God and intercede on his friends’ behalf, despite his friends’ exerting considerable moral pressure for him to “repent” by fitting his unstory into their plausible but spurious stories. That God permitted Job to have an unstory – to lack any plausible narrative for the most dramatic events of his life – cannot but horrify our nature as chattering chimps with lossy memories, but it’s honest: life really can be like that, even if our memories cannot be.

Hart remarks that Christians believe in “a God who has come to rescue his creation from the absurdity of sin,” and “that the path that leads through nature and history to his Kingdom does not simply follow the contours of either nature or history, or obey the logic immanent to them, but is opened to us by way of the natural and historical absurdity – or outrage – of the empty tomb.” Hart may as well have added that this path need not follow the contours of human memory storage, with its storytelling bias. Even if the only way to get humans to remember to follow that path is… through stories.

There are 40 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Andrew Miller Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: There are many forms of suffering that hurt the body, but it is suffering without a story that hurts the soul.

    This. So much this. Great post, Midge.

    • #1
    • October 26, 2016, at 4:31 PM PDT
    • Like
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Well said. I don’t have anything to add.

    • #2
    • October 26, 2016, at 4:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    ” … having encountered disaster does increase the likelihood that you deserved it in a Bayesian sense. ”

    This only holds true under a belief in cosmic justice. That is, it requires an independent positive correlation between what you deserve and what you get.

    • #3
    • October 26, 2016, at 5:00 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Paula Lynn Johnson Inactive

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: The short answer is: nothing. No matter the intensity of your experience, no matter your IQ or the state of your soul, if you cannot tell a story about it, with few exceptions, it has no social existence.

    You have succinctly explained why I’m such a failure at parties.

    On a more serious note, thanks for a thoughtful post.

    • #4
    • October 26, 2016, at 5:04 PM PDT
    • Like
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Ball Diamond Ball:” … having encountered disaster does increase the likelihood that you deserved it in a Bayesian sense. ”

    This only holds true under a belief in cosmic justice. That is, it requires an independent positive correlation between what you deserve and what you get.

    I admit I’m using the term “deserved” a little casually here. For example, since stubbing toes causes them to be sore, if someone finds out you have a sore toe, they might reasonably infer that you had “earned” or “deserved” that sore toe by stubbing it recently – in the sense that, in light of the datum “sore toe”, the posterior probability of your having stubbed your toe is higher than the prior probability you had stubbed it. This sense of desert is more about humdrum causality than cosmic justice, I think. Some people would like humdrum causality to be cosmic justice, though – it would be nice and tidy if that’s how it worked.

    • #5
    • October 26, 2016, at 5:29 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. Arahant Member

    Ball Diamond Ball:” … having encountered disaster does increase the likelihood that you deserved it in a Bayesian sense. ”

    This only holds true under a belief in cosmic justice. That is, it requires an independent positive correlation between what you deserve and what you get.

    The other half of this though, is leaving out God’s guidance into new epiphanies. Sometimes one needs to experience things that are “undeserved” to push you where you need to be. In other words, it is not about the past, but about what God has planned for you.

    • #6
    • October 26, 2016, at 5:55 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Ball Diamond Ball:” … having encountered disaster does increase the likelihood that you deserved it in a Bayesian sense. ”

    This only holds true under a belief in cosmic justice. That is, it requires an independent positive correlation between what you deserve and what you get.

    I admit I’m using the term “deserved” a little casually here. For example, since stubbing toes causes them to be sore, if someone finds out you have a sore toe, they might reasonably infer that you had “earned” or “deserved” that sore toe by stubbing it recently – in the sense that, in light of the datum “sore toe”, the posterior probability of your having stubbed your toe is higher than the prior probability you had stubbed it. This sense of desert is more about humdrum causality than cosmic justice, I think. Some people would like humdrum causality to be cosmic justice, though – it would be nice and tidy if that’s how it worked.

    But as you say, that’s mere causality, which is exactly the opposite of deserve. I note your caveat, but mere causality will never be a “story” in the sense you seek. If I am cut, I bleed, but that relationship is silent on what I deserve.

    None of this approaches the actual topic under discussion — just enjoying some Bayesian banter.

    • #7
    • October 26, 2016, at 6:46 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. Grosseteste Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: But what if there is no story? What if there’s a huge chunk of your life that doesn’t fit neatly into a story? That fits so poorly into any story that it’s impossible to deny the possibility that any story anyone tells about it is pure confabulation? What then do you have to say for yourself when people expect you to account for your existence? The short answer is: nothing.

    Going through a bit of this myself–extremely frustrating.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: A God expected to be the central vac installed in the house of reality to hoover up moral entropy by explaining away the absurd is a God that fails.

    That is a God of the Gaps, which has gotten smaller and smaller since we’ve come up with more comprehensive stories for physical phenomena, such that only moral stopgaps remain. If God’s role is to account for the unexplained, and if the unexplained practically consists of why kids get cancer and other such cosmic injustices, it’s clear why such gods are less popular than ever.

    Thanks for the excellent post!

    • #8
    • October 26, 2016, at 6:53 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Ball Diamond Ball:” … having encountered disaster does increase the likelihood that you deserved it in a Bayesian sense. ”

    This only holds true under a belief in cosmic justice. That is, it requires an independent positive correlation between what you deserve and what you get.

    I admit I’m using the term “deserved” a little casually here. For example, since stubbing toes causes them to be sore, if someone finds out you have a sore toe, they might reasonably infer that you had “earned” or “deserved” that sore toe by stubbing it recently – in the sense that, in light of the datum “sore toe”, the posterior probability of your having stubbed your toe is higher than the prior probability you had stubbed it. This sense of desert is more about humdrum causality than cosmic justice, I think. Some people would like humdrum causality to be cosmic justice, though – it would be nice and tidy if that’s how it worked.

    But as you say, that’s mere causality, which is exactly the opposite of deserve. I note your caveat, but mere causality will never be a “story” in the sense you seek. If I am cut, I bleed, but that relationship is silent on what I deserve.

    None of this approaches the actual topic under discussion — just enjoying some Bayesian banter.

    Understood.

    Many, if you are cut, though, might wonder what you did to cut yourself. What action might you have taken to bring the result upon yourself, and should you have known better?

    Sometimes, folks go to elaborate lengths to tell themselves stories of how they didn’t invite misfortune when they did, or if they can’t tell themselves such a story, will deny truthful stories implicating themselves in their own misfortune. Other times, it really does seem like no reasonable story fits. And of course it’s not always obvious to others (or even ourselves) which is which, and the well-known weakness of humans for the former cannot help but cast suspicion on the latter.

    • #9
    • October 26, 2016, at 7:17 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Trink Coolidge

    I’ve learned so much following your links, Midge. What an incredible, powerful post. In college we were required to read Archibald MacLeish’s J.B. I remember being so haunted by Sarah’s final statement.

    • #10
    • October 26, 2016, at 7:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Flizzo Stizzo Member

    Thank you for sharing this essay.

    I predict a lot of valuable thinking in store for anyone who reads it.

    • #11
    • October 26, 2016, at 11:45 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Crazy Horse Inactive

    This is the freakin post where lighting meets earth. Holy crap, Midge. So many thoughts I want to share but stuck at work for now. All I have to say is I want this framed in my office with a picture of a Vulture circling.

    “Suffering needn’t be particularly intense to seem intensely meaningless.”

    • #12
    • October 27, 2016, at 2:59 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Crazy Horse Inactive

    I’m amazed. Did you mean to write a contemporary Jungian analysis of neuropsychology? Cause you kinda did. Narrative bias is the keystone in that argument. Have you experienced a shift in narrative bias? Do you know others who have reoriented their core beliefs, the philosophical reticle in which they consume and process their experiences? Do you know how close you are to a Taoist interpretation of Job, an exercise that fundamentally changed how I viewed the world?

    Great and fantastic philosophical offerings. I don’t think I need to say this, but I will just in case. As someone who lost their way once, make sure you keep note of your current coordinates, as this is akin to navigating by sextant. One slight adjustment and you can get really lost. You are almost through the looking glass.

    • #13
    • October 27, 2016, at 3:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. Crazy Horse Inactive

    The Unstory, is the natural opposite to determination, purpose, and life. The framing of Good vs Evil is one of my biggest quarrels with Christian Theology. Eventually we encounter this force, the unstory, the void, and wonder why G-D would set this against us. Then we are told about Mysterious Ways. Free Will is a mighty force. Even from a cosmological standpoint, Newton, perhaps the most brilliant Christian and Physicist who ever lived talked about equal and opposite reaction as the third law. Those three laws have prevailed nearly half a millennium later. For free will to exist, there must be a penalty, an opposite force in the universe.

    Have you read about Dark Matter? I would keep it scholarly and avoid the many shills trying to claim it as a theological verification. Have you thought about Light as wave and particle? This is where I developed my own Koans. From philosophical and cosmological queries–but avoid Paradoxes until you can clear your mind.

    • #14
    • October 27, 2016, at 5:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Trink Coolidge

    And Midge . . . neath the depth and pain of your fascinating and soul-challenging essay, beats the great and good heart of a woman I’d love to sit next too whilst administering a gentle hug.

    • #15
    • October 27, 2016, at 6:08 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Crazy Horse Inactive

    Midge, you are a brilliant writer. That’s for sure. Thank you for this. It’s made me think about some profound personal truths.

    • #16
    • October 27, 2016, at 6:54 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    JLocked: The Unstory, is the natural opposite to determination, purpose, and life. The framing of Good vs Evil is one of my biggest quarrels with Christian Theology. Eventually we encounter this force, the unstory, the void, and wonder why G-D would set this against us.

    I would strongly recommend the theology of David Bentley Hart as an antidote to theodicy and the facile (if sometimes necessary) narratives Christians may slip into regarding good and evil in order to avoid the absurd. Hart has written at First Things. He’s a prolific writer generally, and also writes books. The quotes in the article above are taken from this monograph of his.

    His much larger The Beauty of the Infinite: the Aesthetics of Christian Truth is simply stunning. It devotes a chapter to economics and gets economics wrong – setting economics up as a strawman by ascribing metaphysical meaning to economics that economics does not presume to possess, then deriding economics for its presumptions (which are really others’ common presumptions about economics). But even very good theologians struggle to understand what economic thinking is really like. When he sticks to what he knows – theology and the rest of philosophy – well… I finished the book wondering why they don’t teach more of this stuff in Sunday school!

    OK, I know why they don’t – first you gotta teach the little kiddos good, character-building stories before they’re ready to confront reality in all its majestic absurdity without completely losing their bearings. But for all Hart’s philosophical whimsy, he comes closer than most can to avoiding the pitfall of turning human ideas about God into an idol substituting for God.

    • #17
    • October 27, 2016, at 6:57 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    JLocked: Have you read about Dark Matter? I would keep it scholarly and avoid the many shills trying to claim it as a theological verification. Have you thought about Light as wave and particle?

    I do know a little about each, since I began as a physics major in college before switching to math. Oddly enough, the most intuitive approach for quantum mechanics for me proved to be bras and kets (…which might explain why I made the switch, come to think of it).

    Orthodox theologians like Hart also speak of an “uncreated light”, a metaphor perhaps hard for me to grasp as one used to thinking of light in such physical terms – although using it to describe both heaven and hell is a bit more intuitive.

    • #18
    • October 27, 2016, at 2:07 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. Crazy Horse Inactive

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    JLocked: Have you read about Dark Matter? I would keep it scholarly and avoid the many shills trying to claim it as a theological verification. Have you thought about Light as wave and particle?

    I do know a little about each, since I began as a physics major in college before switching to math. Oddly enough, the most intuitive approach for quantum mechanics for me proved to be bras and kets (…which might explain why I made the switch, come to think of it).

    Orthodox theologians like Hart also speak of an “uncreated light”, a metaphor perhaps hard for me to grasp as one used to thinking of light in such physical terms – although using it to describe both heaven and hell is a bit more intuitive.

    One of the books recommended here by Saturday Night Science became a recent addition to my perennial favorites. Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy had troves of new observations about the nature of Quantum Physics and its relationship to Light and Gravity. I think you would enjoy it quite a bit.

    • #19
    • October 27, 2016, at 3:12 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    JLocked: One of the books recommended here by Saturday Night Science became a recent addition to my perennial favorites. Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy had troves of new observations about the nature of Quantum Physics and its relationship to Light and Gravity. I think you would enjoy it quite a bit.

    Thanks! Penrose is an interesting guy.

    • #20
    • October 27, 2016, at 3:35 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Columbo Member
    • #21
    • October 28, 2016, at 6:39 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. RightAngles Member

    Andrew Miller:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: There are many forms of suffering that hurt the body, but it is suffering without a story that hurts the soul.

    This. So much this. Great post, Midge.

    My sentiments too.

    • #22
    • October 28, 2016, at 6:49 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Kent Lyon Inactive

    There is a reason why the people who wrote the Old Testament have such a highly developed sense of humor.

    • #23
    • October 28, 2016, at 11:47 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Kent Lyon:There is a reason why the people who wrote the Old Testament have such a highly developed sense of humor.

    Indeed!

    • #24
    • October 28, 2016, at 1:26 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Now imagine that everything in your life, every day, is without story beyond what sense you can make of the world.

    No comforting God above, neither angrls nor intercessors on your behalf, nobody fighting for you and your fate in the infinite vastness of a quiet living room except for those you know and love, and those who went before, paying everything forward in blind faith. Perhaps in God. Perhaps in you.

    Dennis Prager wonders why those without religion feel purpose. I wonder why the religious even bother to get out of bed. This world, those in it, and the work I am able to do matter far more to me than it should to you.

    • #25
    • October 28, 2016, at 9:39 PM PDT
    • Like
  26. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    I think you’re torturing yourself trying to make this stuff make sense. Quite the opposite of a previous comment about enlightenment, I think that the real zen here is to accept without explanation that which plainly is. This world owes none of us an explanation. Verily, we get none.

    • #26
    • October 28, 2016, at 9:43 PM PDT
    • Like
  27. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Ball Diamond Ball: Now imagine that everything in your life, every day, is without story beyond what sense you can make of the world.

    Functionally, that is basically my life for long periods anyhow. The OP observed that religious faith doesn’t automatically grant our specific lives plausible prefabbed stories, the way some (even some religious) imagine it must.

    I wonder why the religious even bother to get out of bed. This world, those in it, and the work I am able to do matter far more to me than it should to you.

    I can say that it was easier to be motivated to keep at it when it still seemed plausible that what was grinding me down had a moral purpose – perhaps it would clarify if I said what was grinding me down has also left it very unclear what kind of work I am able to do. What would it be like for you to wake up every morning not knowing that? Never really knowing what you should be doing to be the productive person you always expected yourself to be? I think you might find it, well, rather more meaningless than the life you describe.

    I am not sure many teens hang “by the work one knows the workman” on the wall so it’s the first thing they see in the morning, but I was one of those teens, back when I still thought making that my goal and just keeping at it without knowing what was wrong would be enough – it wasn’t. Eventually I took it down. It’s a kind of barrenness. Even with a kid, it’s a kind of barrenness. I don’t think anyone can know if I could have found a way to avoid this barrenness – many “what if” games can be played, not only by me, but by well-wishers and advice givers. Often I’ve tried those things already, and yet here I am. “But have you tried hard enough?” “Were you trying in earnest?” Who knows? I can’t say I do anymore.

    • #27
    • October 28, 2016, at 10:08 PM PDT
    • Like
  28. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    OK, well, sorry for unloading that, and for sidetracking an OP that was deliberately not about me. I’ve noticed not many of Ricochet’s theologians here, at least not that I can tell –

    @saintaugustine?
    @katebraestrup?
    @jamesofengland?
    @kcmulville?
    @nandapanjandrum?

    I’m sure I am leaving several out, but the Book of Job should be fairly rich pickings. Mildly surprised no one’s chimed in to tell me I’m reading it wrong yet, honestly, not that that’s what I’m wishing for…

    • #28
    • October 28, 2016, at 10:18 PM PDT
    • Like
  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Ball Diamond Ball:I think you’re torturing yourself trying to make this stuff make sense. Quite the opposite of a previous comment about enlightenment, I think that the real zen here is to accept without explanation that which plainly is.

    Understood. But if it plainly were, that would still be more explanation than what I’ve got. What plainly is, isn’t.

    This world owes none of us an explanation.

    I know the world owes me no explanation. Other people do want explanations from us, however – not at great length, – keep it short, stupid – but something, some sort of stable expectation. That I’m still here and never a prostitute nor an addict isn’t in itself good enough for anything. But again, I’m getting sidetracked…

    • #29
    • October 28, 2016, at 10:26 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. Arahant Member

    Midge, do you realize that you are in the consciousness of Job’s friends?

    • #30
    • October 28, 2016, at 10:28 PM PDT
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2