I was struck recently by a comment the Pope made on suffering (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 world view. How does a believer reconcile the deep disconnect between a God that favors us (Adam and Eve, Noah, Jesus dying for our sins, etc.) and the ruthless reality of nature. Not surprisingly, Christians can’t bridge this gap, and must always fall back on ‘faith’. I imagine some of the evangelic fever seen in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic path is symptomatic of this underlying reality (i.e., Subconsciously, they doth protest too much, methinks).
Coming from a Taoist world view 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 and 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 got struck by the Tsunami. I’d also offer her Buddha’s Four Noble Truths to finish on a positive note. Every since my kids were toddlers I’ve stressed those truths, and they’ve never had any difficulty understanding them. These truths (or at least the first two) are easily verified through experience by even the youngest child.
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 I just wrote, I’m sure. The remarkable invincibility of the ‘taoist story’ lie in the fact that it is based on Nothing, whatever that is 😉