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Rage, Grief and the World We Have Made

April 20, 2011

Has anyone out there considered why our young people are so medicated and depressed? Marilynne Robinson in her essay Facing Reality makes a staggering proposal:

“Antebellum [Pre-Civil War] doctors described an illness typical of enslaved people sold away from their families, which anyone can recognize as rage and grief. By medicalizing their condition, the culture was able to refuse the meaning of their suffering. I am afraid we also are forgetting that emotions signify, that they are much fuller of meaning than language, that they interpret the world to us and to other people. Perhaps the reality we have made fills certain of us, and of our children, with rage and grief – the tedium and meagerness of it, the meanness of it, the stain of fearfulness it leaves everywhere. It may be necessary to offer ourselves palliatives, but it is drastically wrong to offer or to accept a palliative as if it were a cure.”

This reality which we aspire to, accoring to Robinson, has a “true name… nonfailure.”

She then poses a question to this reality we are all embedded in:

 “What if we understood our vulnerabilities to mean we are human, and so are our friends and our enemies, and so are our cities and books and gardens, our inspiriations, our errors.  We weep human tears, like Hamlet, like Hecuba. If the universe is only all we have so far seen, we are its greatest marvel. I consider it an honor to follow Saint Francis or William Tyndale or Anglina Grimke or Lydia Maria Child anywhere, even to mere extinction. I am honored in the cunning of my hand. This being human – people have loved it through plague and famine and siege. And Dante, who knew the world about suffering, had a place in hell for people who were grave when they might have rejoiced.”

Consider then the words of the Psalmist:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
  the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
 what is man that you are mindful of him,
  and the son of man that you care for him?
  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
  and crowned him with glory and honor.
 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
  you have put all things under his feet,”
(Psalm 8:3-6 ESV)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Charles permalink
    April 21, 2011 7:57 am

    It’s a brave new world we live in, where or society trys to deny or silence any kind of negative emotion. There are some who think emotional pain or sorrow is something to be medicated, like it’s a disease, rather than a natural part of the human experience.

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