The anodyne versus the difficult

It is tempting to live in an anodyne world, where everything is seen in the most painless possible light.  An angry conflict that continues for months, for years, poisoning the lives of both parties?   Two people who actually love each other deeply who just can’t find the way back to love, yet.  A cluster of bad events and painful symptoms that feels catastrophic in your life?  Not really that bad, when you compare them to a hundred much, much worse catastrophes.  You see?   There is a better way to think of bad things, a healthier way to feel about them.  Anodyne means sparing pain, or killing it.

In an anodyne worldview, warring parties can easily come to the table and work out peace terms, if only their better angels emerge and lead, which they easily can.  

True, but a big fucking “if”, if you know what I’m saying.   We don’t, of course, live in a world that always spares us the worst, but … what is the alternative?

Real courage, it seems to me, is looking at difficult things and seeing them for what they are.  Seeing things clearly is the first step towards progress.   As  for the painless view, your truly terrible medical situation does not make my ordinary, if challenging, medical situation any better.  For one thing, they are two different things.  For another, nothing about your awful situation provides any relief of mine.  It is hard to look at a scary thing carefully, a nasty thing, an unthinkable thing.   There are terrors out there, watching with unblinking eyes.  Death is not a ticket to a perfect world, unless I’m sadly mistaken, but it is surely a ticket from this miraculous one.  

We can truly wish that all conflicts could be worked out peacefully, that with enough patience, kindness and intelligence we can work loose the stubborn knots that strangle and keep the war raging.   We can believe this, faithfully, in the face of seamless opposition.  If only I can be more patient, kinder, smarter, if only I can find the words, the metaphor, the story to make clear that I’m not the enemy… except, that when you are the enemy, that’s what you are.

You know what you do with an enemy?  You dig your fortifications and fight like hell.  

While you are fighting you can think “I am fighting for love, I’m fighting for peace, I’m fighting for my belief in lifelong friendship.”   Your enemy is thinking the same thing, and they are convinced that you don’t know jack shit about love, peace or friendship and for that reason your fortifications must be bombarded, stormed and your army vanquished.

Blessed are the peacemakers, as someone in the days of Jesus said.  Then they took one, a man of peace said to perform miracles, and, after a quick trial by mob, nailed him to a cross, along with dozens of others that day.  For centuries people who worshipped this Lamb killed each other over the proper way to follow in his path of peace and gentleness.  Put their fellow believers to the sword, because they had different customs about the best way to show love to the earthly messenger of God’s love.   Anodyne that for me, somebody.

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