I read the Mr. David Brooks essay when first published on April 7th 2014 titled ‘What Suffering Does‘ and I re-read it today and found it full of trite pseudo-philosophical chatter, laced with a kind of relish of the theological obsession with the argued reality of human suffering as the estate of humankind.
One could imagine that Mr. Brooks might postulate that suffering is both redemptive and crushing to the spirit: a kind of baroque pastiche of Calvinism: that the works of humankind are as nothing when the theology of the Free Market isn’t strictly adhered to, as the singular ideal and ruling principle of the human endeavor.The intuition of the subjective mode of revelation of the Free Market has been lost. He might argue, as the cause of the economic collapse of 2008 and the continuing failure of Capitalism to right itself, suffering has become the experience of most but not all Americans.
But we return from the realm of imagination to one arresting thought expressed by Mr. Brooks in his essay:
First, suffering drags you deeper into yourself. The theologian Paul Tillich wrote that people who endure suffering are taken beneath the routines of life and find they are not who they believed themselves to be. The agony involved in, say, composing a great piece of music or the grief of having lost a loved one smashes through what they thought was the bottom floor of their personality, revealing an area below, and then it smashes through that floor revealing another area.
One wonders how the loss of a loved one and the struggle to compose a great piece of music some how express an equivalence? The thought of Mr. Brooks abounds in such vexing conundrums. Notice too, the utterly superfluous garnish of the Paul Tillich paraphrase.