The Pain-Patience Continuum A Humane Understanding of Our Space-Time Reality
The problem of suffering haunts humanity. For Christians, this problem is addressed in part by the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. However, natural virtues, in addition to the theological, can help us cope and hope in the midst of life’s trials. The natural virtue of patience is particularly powerful. Humanity lives in a fallen space-time continuum. Space, or material existence, therefore necessitates pain. Time, or duration, necessitates patience. Thus, however deplorable the fact may be, pain is natural to human existence and patience is its natural remedy. By practicing the natural virtue of patience, humans can preserve serenity in suffering and even transcend their suffering by aiding others.
To demonstrate the reality of this pain-patience continuum, and to show the transcendent power found in patience, examples of human suffering are needed. This article turns to archetypes of suffering found in the literature of antiquity. From storm-tossed Aeneus to storm-tossed Odysseus, from tortured Oedipus to tormented Orestes, the ancients shied not from the reality of pain. Prometheus, Antigone, and Socrates are the archetypes examined herein. Their lives, as shown in brief works of literature, show the necessity of patience, the great benefits of patience, and the great harm that can come from impatience.
Analyzing pagan literature over Christian literature helps illustrate the natural effects of a space-time existence on the human condition, and thereby human suffering. This is not to say that a Christian patience—a patience connected to the theological virtues—is not superior to natural patience, for it certainly is. However, connection to the supernatural or transcendent can sometimes lead us away from the consideration of the natural. Since humans are a union of spirit and matter, we must not ignore or forget the latter; this paper seeks to ameliorate that tendency.
Pain, Patience, Space, Time, Suffering, Prometheus, Antigone, Socrates
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