Sunday, June 07, 2009

Ninety Minutes

Tolstoy had epilepsy. He wrote of the moment of well-being, even of ecstasy, that preceded a seizure. He longed for that moment while dreading the collapse that followed.

I know what that moment is, though I rarely experience it. For me there is a permanent feeling of malaise. I’m sick and I’m sick all the time. Some days are worse than others, but all days are bad.

I am broken. My interactions are impaired by my need to fight a monster that has no form, whose existence is traced on graph paper and seen in the blatant and subtle evils it works in my mind and body.

My children do not consider ninety minutes a moment, but, ticked out on the clock of suffering, ninety minutes of comfort –ninety minutes of well-being-- are no more than that.

I had my ninety minutes yesterday morning. My mind was clear and my body free of unremitting pain. There was liberation, but liberation was replaced by the certainty that any freedom gained would be lost.

I had no time to think the deep thoughts that eluded the Scarecrow. I filled my time praying for one more moment of freedom from the monster's noisy buzz, but my prayers were to a god who has stopped listening to me.

Job’s wife advised him to curse God and die, thinking that death would end his suffering. She may have thought that Job owed the god who played with his life a good curse. Job caller her senseless. Oh, yes, he said she only talked as the senseless women did, but the effect was the same. He asked, ‘Should we not take the bad from God along with the good?’

I ask, “Why should God give his children bad?” What larger issue hangs in the balance, the parties to which can be swayed by how well I suffer?


  1. We don't know the larger issues, do we? None of us really knows what purpose our lives have in the grand scheme of things. Story book endings are rare where the hero or heroine, in a final moment of realization, see how his/her life has made a difference to someone else.

    Perhaps one of your children, or someone else who has been touched by your writings or by the kindness that you have shown others, will become a doctor, a scientist, who will find a cure for your condition. Or maybe they too will damn God for his injustice. I never cared for Job. I always was drawn to the Psalms.

    For troubles without number surround me;
    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
    They are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails within me.

    Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
    O LORD, come quickly to help me.
    ~Psalm 40: 12-13 [NIV]

    I cannot imagine the horror you live through each and everyday. I can only pray for you.

  2. What larger issues? There are no larger issues here. Suffering does not bring glory to god. He cannot possibly get glory from my suffering.

    I do not blame him for my seizures. I also do not see in him any inclination to relieve suffering.

    That someone may like what I write or is touched by some kindness I may have extended,does not make my illness worthwhile.

    I would act the same, ill or not, though I may be a nicer person without having to express goodwill toward men despite my suffering.

    I would be a better and certainly a more prolific writer if I were not ill.

    David, in the Psalm you quote, saw his troubles as a consequence of his sin. I've had seizures since I was seven. What sin could a seven year old commit that would deserve a lifetime of missery?

  3. Brandon12:58 PM


    Allow me to preface my comment by saying that it is not meant to undermine your feeling of pain, nor is it meant to deprive you of the right to express that feeling. It is merely an effort to offer you perspective, meaning, and purpose, in order to help you deal with the pain.

    The Talmud says that G-d does not give one a challenge he cannot overcome. This means if one has a bigger challenge in life they also have the necessary powers to deal with it. If they are lacking in one area, they possess abundance in another area. If they feel inferior in some ways, they are superior in others.

    The challenge is to be able to look past the disabilities and focus on your amazing abilities.

    Take note however, that all of this applies only to ourselves. We CANNOT use any explanation to dismiss someone else's suffering. Not the explanation from the Talmud (that is only meant for you personally, to deal with your own pain), nor any trite catchphrases you might hear, such as these:

    It's a test from G-d. We suffer in this world to receive reward in the world to come. Suffering brings us closer to G-d. etc.

    Even though these are all true, none of these explanations really make us feel better - the reason for that being they aren't meant to make us feel better. G-d wants us to be distressed over the suffering of others, and act accordingly.

    Anyone who tries to justify suffering is making a mistake. G-d has His reasons, but He does not expect us to understand why He causes people suffer, nor does He expect us to just accept it - He expects us to do our very best to alleviate it, and to cry out to Him in prayer, pleading with Him to alleviate it.

    I'm truly sorry to hear about your condition. I hope and pray you receive a complete and speedy recovery.