Friday, April 01, 2005

The first noble truth and its transcendance in the media....

This article from National Review doesn't exactly convey a Buddhist viewpoint on suffering, certainly not mine...

The principal task of the pope is not the effective management of the Church bureaucracy — it is to serve as an effective witness for Christ in the world. John Paul does this more eloquently today, through his silent suffering, than he ever did with words. It does not really matter if he can use his voice intelligibly — or at all. By carrying on, despite his afflictions, he stands as a living rebuke to our utilitarian culture — and a living witness to the value of every life, especially the elderly and infirm.

In carrying on, John Paul also offers us a precious gift: his suffering. It is hard to see him suffer. But this pope does not ask for relief from his sufferings. To the contrary, a bishop once told me that the pope used to refuse medication precisely because it interfered with his suffering. He has a mystical relationship with his suffering, offering it up for us, and for the whole world — a world that increasingly embraces the culture of death, euthanasia, and the abortion of disabled fetuses, because it mistakenly believes there is no greater moral good than relief from suffering. In bearing his pain, John Paul says to us, in union with the Apostle Paul, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions."

We need his example in this world filled with suffering. We need the lesson he is teaching us: that suffering is not useless; that it can have meaning, and salvific power. As John Paul wrote in his 1984 encyclical On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, once this meaning and power are discovered, suffering actually becomes "a source of joy" because "faith in sharing the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service."

Suffering exists for its transcendance, and to teach us and others how to transcend other suffering. While it may be true that the Pope is using a technique well known to Buddhists- "the relaxation of thoughts" to transcend his suffering, it is not, should not, and cannot imply that is incumbent on us, and cannot because we are to be responsible for how we transcend suffering, and the moment the "Pope specifies what we should do" in cases like this, the moment we create additional suffering.

The other thing that goes through my mind is that this is a questionable gambit: it is not a good idea to publicly pretend you're Christ on the cross by dying of old age-related ailments publicly, especially when somebody with more foolishness and a more virulent terminal illness than John Paul II will be inclined to throw away his oxycontin for pains for which John Paul II's seem only like a mosquito bite's.

But all that's kind of moot...

ROME, April 1 - The condition of Pope John Paul II was "very grave," the Vatican said on Friday morning, and he had been given last rites after suffering heart failure on Thursday.

But the pope, 84, whose health has taken a steep dive in the last two months, had decided himself not to go to the hospital, and on Friday morning he was still "conscious, lucid and tranquil," his chief spokesman, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said in a statement.

This latest health crisis - only a day after doctors fitted him with a feeding tube - was set off on Thursday by a urinary tract infection. That infection, the Vatican said on Thursday, caused a high fever in the already frail and weakened pope, who has suffered for more than a decade from Parkinson's disease.

Doctors began treating him with antibiotics at his apartment in the Vatican, and Vatican Radio reported overnight that the pope was responding well and that his condition appeared to have stabilized.

But the new Vatican announcement on Friday morning made it clear that the John Paul II, the 264th pope and one of the longest serving in history, was close to death.

It said that he had suffered "septic shock with cardiovascular collapse."

Evidently for the pope, unlike Terri Schiavo's parents, (follow Kos link therein) there are limits to heroics (no amputating papal limbs ), and even this pope knows that eventually the suffering person becomes the dying person.

No comments: