May 23, 2022

superabundance + suffering

Two things that are easy to overlook in Christianity and that I have so many questions about:

Superabundance at the core of God’s own nature: fecundity, lavish generosity, infinite variety and locality, specificity beyond measure. Superabundance at the energetic heart of nature and in the mark of divinity on the human person. So many rights claims get their motivation from the chasm between a moral intuition for the common good that should be and the status quo that is. But what does it mean to proceed from superabundance as the ground of Being itself? I’m thinking about Katherine Sonderegger on the practice of theology: “I don’t think that Scripture, the prophets, or Christ himself hesitate to speak about the glory and mystery and being of God. I would want to see theology losing itself in that ocean of reality — and thinking of that as the sanctification of thought. So [theology is] going to have things to say about the world, and human flourishing, and a just society, and about the relation of human beings, the love of neighbor. But I think it has that in virtue of this focus on the superabundant being of God.”

Suffering as an existential fact. Here I mean the role of suffering in an individual life, as opposed to the broad social suffering that we are bound — by agreement of civic life and/or by a wisdom tradition — to mitigate in whatever ways we can. But what of the subjective daily experience? In Christianity, suffering is not a glitch. It is a given norm of our conscious proceeding through life, and the suffering God-man joins the human plight with embodied compassion, even making it a Way. I’m thinking about the contemporary notion of all pathology, all the time and its many assumptions about the experience of wellbeing: the glitch of suffering as a mechanism, and the mechanics of fixing it, and the self-reported hedonism of “happiness.” We need a therapeutic address of individual suffering in the forms of psychology and psychiatry and other social scientific tools. But might there also be a facet of suffering that accompanies the universal drama of the human-in-time? And if so, then what?