Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rambling on Attitude

So, yesterday, finally, I had my shot to increase my white blood count. It's a long story of mis-managed care. So, the sweet nurse was telling me about a cancer dinner she had been to that she really enjoyed. Ususally, she said, the speaker was some boring doctor. This time, it was a woman who had had everything. She had married the love of her life, she and her husband owned a BandB. Then she got cancer. She lost everything: her husband, her b and b, all her money. But somehow, it was the greatest thing that ever happened to her. Please, save me from more cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me stories. Feeling like crap after chemo (I do five hours of chemo every three weeks. I spend five hours having poison poured into my veins. I don't think that is a good thing.) When I have a good day, I rejoice.

I listened to Rachael Remen who wrote "Kitchen Table Wisdom" on a podcast of Speaking of Faith. So, I bought the book. It's stories from her time counseling people with cancer. (With my attitude, I wonder why I bought it.) So, one story is about a guy who was not progressing in his imagining group. The guy had come up with an image that the rest of the group didn't approve of and so, the leader of the group and the group changed it for him. And now, he couldn't do the imagining. The "new" image was a shark full of teeth. He was supposed to imagine hordes of sharks with sharp teeth coursing through his veins eating up the cancer cells. (Even as I write these words, it's hard to suppress a giggle. Do people really believe that imagining sharks swimming through their veins can help their bodies fight the cancer? Sometimes the cynical, analytical scientist in me comes to the surface with a what can they be thinking?) So, the guy's original image was a cat fish. Now, a catfish, I can understand. They are bottom feeders. They suck up all the gunk, all the garbage, all the poison. They are old, old fish. I can even get a sort of Jesus image for catfish--don't ask. But, catfish weren't good enough for the guy's group. So, why do people think they have the answers for everyone? Why do people trample over other people without a by your leave? I wonder whether the leader or the other members had even asked the guy to talk about catfish. I wonder if they even had a clue about catfish.

But I wonder about the whole attitude impact on cancer. I think it's because we want to control the uncontrollable. Cancer is chaos; it is random; it is not predictable. It happens like an automobile accident: for no good reason. If we hold on to the idea that our attitudes have an impact on our cancers, then there is some control, some meaning. But, I believe studies have shown attitude doesn't really have an impact. And the downside is the same as believing in faith healing. If we don't get well, then it's our fault. Our attitudes/faith weren't good enough. And sometimes attitude doesn't make a difference. Cancer is what it is. Sometimes, it's beyond cure.

The whole theodicy thing is coming back to me. For a long time, after many trips to Nicaragua during the contra warfare, theodicy was an important question for me. Why does God allow this awful stuff to happen. People doing unspeakable things to other people. The amount of horror people can inflict on each other is unimaginable. And scripture has no answer for this.
So, for a long time, I thought the evil we do to each other is inherent in our sinfulness. Jesus came to show us how we should live together and we reject it. Natural evil (earthquakes, hurricanes, monsoons) are a natural result of the way the world works. God is like a parent who watches her children make mistakes, cries with them and hopes that they can go back to the lessons she has taught them as children so that God's will will be done on earth, God's realm will come on earth.

Not quite a deist God, but a loving mother/father letting her/his grown children make mistakes and letting them go. Is this enough? What about the chaos? What about the randomness?

So, where is God in the chaos? Where is God in the randomness? If I don't believe that God intended me to get cancer (and if God did, then God's a jerk), then where is God? Is God there, waiting for me, holding me, loving me?

I came to the conclusion that God could not be all-loving and all-powerful if the world is the way it is. Either God is not all-loving and thus lets/causes suffering or God is not all-powerful to stop it. I came to the conclusion that God has chosen to give us free will and to give up God's power in the process. I'm not sure that's a good enough answer right now.

I'd love to hear other's thoughts.