Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: Getting out of the archives

213 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 5 6 7 8 9 Newer→ Last

  • BenWilson,

    Nice to meet you Jackson.

    I was going to tell a story that also happened to me the other day about some christian doorknockers who caught me in a conciliatory mood. But that's an old story.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    I was going to tell a story that also happened to me the other day about some christian doorknockers who caught me in a conciliatory mood. But that's an old story.

    Someone earlier talked about the alternative approach to door-knockers, and I was going to tell the story of my Grandmother.

    She would let them talk for a while, and if I can be so crass, say 'your god is good, and I'm gonna let you finish...' No better not go there. Suffice to say that whatever they gave out, they got back in spades.

    Perhaps my response was a bit emotional, but since you spoke from the heart, felt you deserved the same in kind.

    It seems this 'community' is more worthy of my trust than I might have hoped. Although I sense at times people come and go who don't respect others as much as they should.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    That reminds me of a story of my own.

    A few years ago, I had one of the most intense emotional experiences of my life. For about two weeks I sat every day, and a good chunk of most nights, outside the ICU at Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem, wondering if my pregnant sister would die -- she had blood poisoning of an unusual kind and we had been told she probably would. My Dad had got a phone call from my brother in law in the middle of the night, so he and I got on a plane not knowing if she would still be alive when we arrived.

    Top weight-loss tip: if you sleep four hours a night and eat two meals a day for two weeks and worry ceaselessly over a family member, you can lose up to 7kg!

    In order to remove any sense of suspense you might be suffering from, she received excellent care, had some very good luck, and lived and had a very healthy baby after. Hooray! But that's not why I'm telling you this.

    Over those two weeks, I saw a lot of patients and their families come and go. A lot of them left because they died. Some got better. No one who was there when I arrived was still there when I left: my sister hung on fighting longer and harder than anyone thought possible.

    All the stories I heard were tragic, some hideously so -- like the baby with no working liver. And because of the nature of the area, there were a lot of devout friends and families of various religions praying for the sick. And for me and mine -- my sister is part of a fantastically supportive and helpful religious community. Like Ben's wife, I enjoyed and valued the warmth and good feeling they transmitted.

    I can still see the young haredi father whose baby was going to die, as we sat in the corridor waiting stoically for God's will. He offered me a cheese boureka for breakfast. I gave the Palestinian family whose daughter was dying of pneumonia the last of my coffee stash, they gave me tea.

    But. The whole while I was feeling the love of strangers, while we were sharing our little supplies of coffee and pastries, and reading psalms and exchanging halting English and Hebrew and Arabic, the last shreds of wishful faith I had were slowly evaporating under the relentless proof that the universe is random. I didn't see any rhyme or reason to who lived or who died, or even who was afflicted. It was just all stuff. And the good things I experienced in that awful time came from people being people. If there were miracles, they came in the wholly explicable form of experimental antibiotics.

    I can see how belief in God and membership in a religious community can be a comfort, but it isn't God who's helping through prayer, it's the knowledge that one of your fellow primates cares that's helping. I take offers of prayer as an expression of concern and don't worry myself about the form it's expressed in.

    And on another note, next time I have an argument with someone on an apparently irrelevant topic, I'm going to try to remind myself they might have a lot on their mind...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Perhaps my response was a bit emotional, but since you spoke from the heart, felt you deserved the same in kind.

    It was appreciated. The gift of your real name is not lightly given online. Thank you.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Tautoko Stephen, for your stories & your last points-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Stephen, so true. I met a lot of people far less fortunate in NICU. Nothing seemed fair about what happened to any of those babies - I was not moved by God's wonderful sense of morality and justice myself. But I can see that religion for the religious is much more than a dry appraisal of the likelihood of such a being. It's a community of support, mostly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    My grandmother died this morning. I just wanted to say that the little moments of grace that happened on page 6 of this thread made the day seem slightly less unbearable. (That and repeated spins of "Sunny Border Blue.") Thanks everyone. I'm Edmund, btw.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    "it's a community of support, mostly."

    Indeed - when benign. Religion is also majorly about social control, worldly power & dominance, and manipulation of those interesting human traits of creativity* & curiosity.

    I've spent way too much time over the past 2 decades in ICUs**: the sheer randomness of why people arrive there and whether they leave them alive has been a set of salutary experiences. I've found the staff in several EDs and ICUs wonderful - humane, professional, caring - and it seems especially so in Neonate IC.


    *Especially creating new humans-
    **In ANZ only-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I am so sorry about your grandmother, Edmund. Never easy, I know.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Edmund, the death of a family member is a permanant tear.
    Aue!
    N/n Keri

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    I hope it's not too pretentious, but in existentialism they sometimes define nothingness as the 'absence of expected presence'.

    Sartre used the analogy of looking for... hang on, Google check ... Pierre in the cafe, but Pierre wasn't there. His previous presence was so reliable that it left a gaping hole.

    In both stories above, where suffering and fear were so ever present, you would almost expect some evidence of a higher order, but it is these circumstances that seem to most highlight the absence, at least in my experience. Randomness is a good way of putting it.

    I agree with Ben that for some it is a 'valid' community of support in times of struggle, but when it leads to religious fatalism (this is god's will), it is a challenge to 'breath through the nose'.

    It took me a while to write this, so I'm editing after the fact.

    Edmund, sorry for your loss, and I might have written a different story had I seen that first.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    I'm sorry to hear that, Edmund. I hope you have lots of people around you to grieve with.

    Randomness is a good way of putting it.

    There's sort of a freedom in it, too; in knowing that these things are not personal, or because of something you did wrong, it just is. It's the same sort of freedom people get from believing in a divine plan, I suppose, approached from the other direction. I know which one I prefer, but I can understand the other, too.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    I'm a little stunned by this thread. I shouldn't be surprised that people would share their grief in the same was they, myself included, have shared their joys. I can't entirely or simply convey my feelings about the things said here but I offer my sincere thanks and respect.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Edmund, sorry to hear about your grandmother, and hope you get to give her a good family send off.

    I heard about the death of someone today that I didn't know well, but had long admired. He was a great role model, a staunch disability activist and a great Facebook communicator. Sacha rang to tell me and it is the first time I have ever talked to Sacha. He has a nice voice.

    Sometimes this space here is a real community.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3227 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Best wishes to you and your family, Edmund.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Edmund, I'm sorry to hear it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Oh and Jackson, talking about Existentialism isn't pretentious. But it might be considered Old School :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    And Sacha - you've also had someone you love/respect die this day - kia manawanui, kia kaha mai na n/n K

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    But it might be considered Old School :-)

    Yes well, if we start down the road of semiotics, we'll be up pretentious creak without a moral compass before we know it.

    Hmm. Slipping back into my somewhat futile attempts at comedic wit, after the earlier stuff, makes me feel a bit guilty. D'oh, there's that word guilt again.

    I feel like I've been part of something. I'm not entirely sure what, but it was definitely something. And it was good. Thanks.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    Thanks, everyone. I got a text just as I was leaving the house this morning, and the day at work seemed correspondingly strange and unreal. PAS helped. She was 97, blind and almost immobile towards the end, but still lucid. We all knew that the end was near, but she'd held on for such a long time.

    By no means an easy or straightforward woman, she nevertheless led an extraordinary life. She witnessed a zeppelin raid on Edinburgh; graduated from an American college in the '30s; saw some of the jazz greats in Kansas City; and never lost her soft midwestern accent despite over 70 years in New Zealand. I'll miss her.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Ben, I can't remember on which thread you mentioned it, but I hope your son is recovering well from the surgery.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3227 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Cheers Hilary. It was probably Facebook, though. And yes, he's over the worst I think.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Thanks, Hilary and Islander. And everyone for showing the caring side of this lovely group of humans. Hopefully some of our newer friends can see why we protect it so fiercely. Perhaps too much at times.

    the day at work seemed correspondingly strange and unreal. PAS helped.

    Yes

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    I have recently finished reading Marc D. Hauser's book Moral Minds. It reviews not the philosophy but the state of modern science on how a moral sense actually develops in children and that the building blocks of our morality, such as a sense of fairness, are displayed by many animals. IOW we don't get morality from religion, religion gets its morality from us, particularly as social animals.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    IOW we don't get morality from religion, religion gets its morality from us, particularly as social animals.

    For sure. So far as the connection between God and morality is concerned, I always remember the important distinction Socrates makes in Euthyphro "Is an act pious because the gods love it, or do the Gods love it because it is pious?" Euthyphro rightly (IMHO) chooses the latter. The connection between gods and morality is not what defines morality. It is what defines godliness, at least, it is part of the definition of some gods.

    Perhaps we could come to know morality from the words of gods, if they are an infallible guide. But it's not the only path possible, since morality is already clearly independent of the gods.

    It's interesting to hear this idea from someone who clearly was a true believer, indeed, Socrates seems to have believed that at least one god spoke directly to him most of the time. He said as much during his trial, at which there were a great many witnesses. To even say such a thing no doubt struck the religious Athenians as highly impious. He was convicted, and after the worst plea bargain in history, sentenced to death by a greater margin of people than had found him guilty in the first place.

    It's a fairly stark reminder of religion's response to reason. The arguable founder of the western tradition of inquiry into ethics was put to death for how irreligious his method and teachings were. To even inquire into such matters was too much. To claim to be doing so on a mission from the gods was pure sacrilege.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 5 6 7 8 9 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.