Never mind! OK - launching right in: C.S. Lewis makes a really cool point in The Screwtape Letters that - for both God and Satan - one's circumstances are largely viewed as "raw material." (and I am sorry - I find I can not immediately give you the quote as I can't find it quickly and don't want to take the time to search for it. . . . Sorry! Not very academic of me, I know. One day, when this dissertation is done, I intend to assemble an index for The Screwtape Letters. I can't tell you how often I spend a hour or two, scanning the thing, looking for a remembered example or story!) Raw material, that is, either to make one more at home in one - or its other - of the two possible eternal dwelling places.
Apologies here - if required - to those who do not believe that there is a post-physical reality in store for us. I did warn you. . . .
And here we might also conduct a brief excursion into questions of the nature of the duality of the two possible destinations. . . . Is it divided by good versus bad? Preoccupation with self versus care for others? A vision of reality as human-centred versus transcendent - wait for it - God-centred?
As interesting as that is, however, what struck me this morning was (1) the need to warn in advance if you intend to use this type of 'religious' reasoning and (2) the fact that it is only in the 'religious' that one would find this kind of thought (namely: that circumstances aren't just circumstances - and the relevant inquiry being what the circumstance is and how can I change it/overcome it - BUT that circumstances HAVE PURPOSE in and of themselves. Perhaps it is a purpose of which I am unaware, but it is a purpose nonetheless. AND that that purpose is to better fit me either for one destination - or the other. Here, I would also add that 'free will' has something to do with which one of those destinations might come into play. . . .)
If you believe this, does this not make a really big difference in how you would then respond to the circumstances in your life? As well as the circumstances you see that appear in others' lives? Your children's? Parents'? The neighbors', rich man's, poor man's and sick man's circumstances? (yes. I realize that proper academic style would have required me to insert at least one feminine in this paragraph, but I really didn't want to deal with it, nor to decide whether the feminine would be assigned to the rich, poor, or sick adjective. That is an adjective, isn't it?)
Back to circumstances. Is this perhaps just a fatalistic way of viewing all the 'bad things' in the world and getting out of any reason to have to deal with them? Yes, possibly. It doesn't mean that I don't do anything to help those under hard circumstances. It's just that it's the working out of circumstances that is of interest in a life, rather than the circumstance itself.
The other thing is that the life without challenging circumstances is often not much of a life. . . . (oh - how cautiously I say this!!) We know this by the books we read. And those of you who are writers know all about conflict. No conflict? No story. No character. Here, think of Harry Potter growing up with no He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, parents still blissfully alive, no ugly Muggle relations that persecute you, going to all the right schools, having all the right brand-name brooms, plenty of whatever-they-called-their-coins in Gringott's bank (I think it's called), varsity starter on the Quidditch team - and yeah! - you got your basic Paris Hilton meltdown potential! (there - got a 'feminine' in - although the feminists might quibble with my example).
How else, though, would one express this idea, without an 'over-arching' sense of purpose, outside of ourselves?
And NO. . . . I'm not advocating going out to look for trouble or hardship. Here, I'll rely on a Biblical quote (there having been more than enough advance warning of explict religious content by now - if you've read this far, you deserve all you get! grin. . . .) actually, two Biblical quotes:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Mat 6:34
Dear friends,do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12
The prohibition of speaking in the religious vernacular (thank you very much, John Rawls!) seems to me to be like prohibiting the discussion of things like diet and nutrition, on account of not wanting to make people feel uncomfortable if they happen to be hungry and in want - or perhaps (conversely) overweight but not wanting to acknowlege it - but in any event, each of us might have a different take on the matter, depending upon who we are and out current circumstances. But maybe we shouldn't talk about that either, because it's sounding more and more like maybe somebody else is in charge. . . .