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We humans love to indulge our suffering

Date published: 5/19/2013

We humans love to indulge our suffering

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the problem with "news" stories is that God doles out the requisite strength to those involved with a particular event, but it may be harmful for other people to become involved because it isn't God's will.

Flip to the HLN TV network to see this in action. Nancy Grace commands an army of meddling, middle-age women, a nationwide neighborhood watch. They get to become living-room detectives each day, but the real attraction is the exercise in righteous indignation.

People enjoy their negative emotions and will always defend them when threatened. They take their frenzied fascination with crimes, or their self-indulgent sadness in the wake of some tragedy, and cast them as something to be proud of--empathy, steely resolve, strength of character. This is reinforced by the community--social media campaigns, fundraisers to throw money at something, empty gestures before sporting events.

The belief persists that there is something inherently admirable about being affected by an event, even one that would bear no impact were it not for television and newspaper. People will defend their right to become uselessly invested. Someone asked George Gurdjieff what sacrifices are necessary in the Christian tradition. He said: "The only thing you have to sacrifice is your suffering. It is very difficult also to sacrifice one's suffering. A man will renounce any pleasures you like, but he will not give up his suffering."

Matthew Westfall