The Pope’s recent comments on suffering struck me. (See: Pope Benedict stumped by Japanese girl’s question about suffering). Briefly, a young girl asked him, “Why do children have to be so sad?” Benedict admitted: “I also have the same questions: why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease?”
This exemplifies the shaky foundation of the Christian worldview. How does a believer reconcile the inconsistency of a God that favors humans, from Adam and Eve up to us today, and the ruthless reality of nature? As chapter 5 put it, Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs. Not surprisingly, Christians can’t bridge this gap, and must always fall back on ‘faith’. Is not the passion seen in Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions symptomatic of this underlying problem? It reminds me of what “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” alludes to. Underlying insecurity drives a bold facade.
Coming from a Taoist worldview, I would simply tell the young girl that this is simply nature’s way. There is no reward or punishment, no evil or good, no sin or salvation in nature. Those are human myths. If she were familiar with biology, I’d also add that we have a ‘fairness’ social instinct from which these myths arise in the first place (1).
If an animal is ‘at the wrong place at the wrong time’, it gets struck by lightening. Similarly, the folks who lived by the sea were at the wrong place at the wrong time and were struck by the Tsunami. I’d also offer her Buddha’s view to finish on a positive note. (See Buddha’s Four Noble Truths.) Every since my kids were toddlers I’ve stressed those truths, and they’ve never had any difficulty understanding them. Even the youngest child can easily verify these truths, or at least the first two, through experience.
Again, the wisdom of chapter 71 rises to the occasion:
(1) In the end, all our stories are emergent properties arising out of instinct… including this one here, I’m sure. The remarkable invincibility of the ‘taoist story’ lies in the fact that it is based on Nothing, whatever that is 😉