Job’s Primal Scream In A Digital Age (@layanglicana)

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Book of Job is possibly the most accessible of all books of the Old Testament to human beings in the 21st century: we get caught up in the story, with its classical shape of bright beginning, dark central core, and bright ending. Despite the intensely irritating comments of Job’s ‘friends’, as the reader identifies with the sufferings of Job we reject the facile explanation that his sins are solely to blame for his pain as indignantly as does Job.  A latter-day Job would surely pour his heart and his arguments with God into a blog – indeed that is exactly what many have done.

Those of us who remember the 1970s will have encountered the concept of primal therapy, based on the idea that repressed pain can be resolved through re-experiencing the incident and fully expressing the resulting pain during therapy. You could say Job and Munch were unconscious exponents of this theory. Blaming external forces for all that causes pain in the world (rather than acknowledging one’s own part) is also part of the therapy. Wikipedia drily concludes: ‘Primal therapy has since declined in popularity’, partly because it has not been proven to work for the relief of pain and suffering.

Brought up to believe in suffering in silence, as part of the stiff upper lip view of life, I have always been rather dubious about the therapeutic benefits of letting it all out. There is some statistical evidence that patients who do not look at the site of their traumatic injuries or treatments feel less pain as a result. (In other words, cowards like me, who have never looked at the ominously approaching hypodermic syringe, reap the rewards!) And one of the most admirable aspects of Mother Teresa is that she continued to devote her life to ameliorating the sufferings of others, even while she herself suffered periods of deep depression.

Liz Hall, a cyber friend whom I much admire,  blogs in  ‘Pain Sufferers Speak’.  She describes herself as a ‘Christian  who respects all religions and practices unconditional love’. She says

I have lived with chronic pain for 16 years since age 24, and I have lived with chronic illness for 26 years since age 14.  My main goal is to be sure no one ever is alone in their pain. With 4 support groups, 3 blogs, and availability on all major social networks, there truly is something for everyone…[I aim to] have a positive impact on everyone I meet, promote bloggers, causes and advocates of all kinds and, last, but certainly not least, I love to pass on a smile and blessings to everyone. My disabilities and pain do NOT define me.

This strikes me as a wholly admirable use of social media as part of Christian ministry in its widest sense: she suffers from chronic pain but has channelled this into a way of focusing on others, rather than herself. Or, to put it another way, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

Life might have been a little less painful for Job had he been able to do the same?


About Laura Sykes