A Prayer for the Suffering
Lord, I offer a prayer for those who suffer.
In the absence of immediate pain,
one can argue that suffering is an abstraction,
as is mathematics, though less clean.
In evaluating the cumulative total
of suffering experienced by an individual,
one can place in the numerator,
the sum of the hours spent in anguish.
In the denominator one inserts
the total hours of one's existence.
This dimensionless ratio is, of course,
the fraction of one's life devoted to suffering.
Christ, suffered for three hours on the cross,
then rose to sit in glory at the Right Hand for all eternity.
Please do not blame me, if the mathematics
of three divided by infinity reveals
that Christ, He who died that the world might live,
has a ratio of suffering equal to zero, nothing.
Lucifer, a fallen angel, damned to the eternal torment
of Hell, is faced with an infinity of suffering,
in which he might rue the poor choices
that led him to his unending doom.
If we generously suppose that Lucifer
fell halfway between an infinitely distant beginning
and an equally infinitely distant end, then
his ratio of suffering is, at least, one half.
I know this argument will endear me
no more to atheists than it does to Christians.
Think now of a dog, for whom no afterlife beckons.
Let us pray for this dog, born in a kennel,
if lucky, ordered all its days to obey,
otherwise discarded, perhaps "humanely",
a word that means gently killed by men.
It is not so great an exercise of the imagination
to remember the dog who suffered
every biological minute of its existence,
who shines as a paragon of unity,
championing a marvelous suffering ratio of one.
Dear Lord, let me comfort that dog,
for I hear him baying at my window.
Think now of a man, a creature
who fell between dog and God,
who wears a number bound
between zero and one. Now pray for him.
Think of the woman, who suffers
the senseless death of her children,
through accident or natural disaster,
and grieves the remaining days of her life,
cursing God with impunity,
knowing full well no afterlife
of retribution for her lack of faith and piety
will surpass the anguish she already knows.
Let us pray for the woman with a curse for God,
though she would hurl threats at us
if she knew of our betrayal.
To lessen her pain, pray quietly.
I, who understand nothing,
who have suffered little,
and then only over imaginary slights
of import too embarrassing to recount,
offer this prayer. Let all who suffer,
suffer forever. Let them know neither
redemption nor relief. Let their ratio
of suffering defy mathematics and merge
with the infinite, for if there is merit
to be gained through suffering, if anguish
improves the world and the lot of those within,
I am compelled to believe it should never end.
A Prayer for the Suffering
August 21, 2014