Friday, March 09, 2012

Tell me again - Leonard Cohen and the problem of suffering

Long time readers may recall a long and eventually fruitless argument I had with Stephen Law about the problem of evil. My concluding thoughts are here, and a link up is here.

Time and reflection haven't changed my thoughts much. I still think that the 'answer' to the problem of suffering is a life lived, and that the intellectual analyses rather miss the point. Most crucially, I believe that the essential path is to be like Job - to tell God that you have a bone to pick with Him - but to accept the answer that isn't given, and pray anyhow. Or, as Elie Wiesel describes, "It happened at night; there were just three people. At the end of the trial, they used the word chayav, rather than ‘guilty'. It means ‘He owes us something'. Then we went to pray."

I'm listening to Leonard Cohen a lot at the moment, and this theme runs through so many of the songs - I see Cohen as articulating the only faithful response that is possible. Consider this:

I don't smoke no cigarette
I don't drink no alcohol
I ain't had much loving yet
But that's always been your call

or

Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can't move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began


The troubles came, I saved what I could save
A thread of light, a particle, a wave
But there were chains so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave


And most clearly of all, this:

2 comments:

  1. "Time and reflection haven't changed my thoughts much. I still think that the 'answer' to the problem of suffering is a life lived, and that the intellectual analyses rather miss the point. Most crucially, I believe that the essential path is to be like Job - to tell God that you have a bone to pick with Him - but to accept the answer that isn't given, and pray anyhow."

    That might work as an answer from eg a Stoic to an Epicurean but I don't think it works for a Christian.

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  2. It seems to me that Leonard Cohen is a gifted lost man and his soul has not changed since he sang Suzan takes me down... except many more layers of unbelief have coated his heart bringing dismay and anguish.
    Maybe he is called and is not answering.
    This is the step that CS Lewis resented taking but he did take it.
    Are we not the same? potentially?
    Why remain in the question all your life rather than step into the luminous answer? This is true suffering. Not answering when you are called.

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