I saw a patient on Friday – Good Friday – who had been hosed by the mechanical Medical Machine in a recent hospitalization. He was in agony; he was dehumanized, and that’s not a psychiatric condition, it’s a soul condition. It’s hard to speak in any sort of humanistic language without sounding New Agey and loopy.
He is in his late sixties, and he had a complication after surgery POD2-POD3. He wound up in the ICU crazy as a rat in a coffee can, which physicians know as ICU PSYCHOSIS.
He was crazy for 5 days, and doesn’t remember a lick of it, which is standard form for ICU psychosis, just a version of delirium. Delirium is a medical condition, I’ve been trained well to handle it, it goes high and low, and you never call a psychiatrist for help, because it’s a medical derangement of the lump of grey fat between the ears. Sixty-year-old men have sixty-year-old brains, which are easy to befuddle.
But some arrogant asshole said he was “detoxing from alcohol,” which is horseshit and not so, I know that, as I am his internist and I am not opaque to alcoholism in my patients. On the good old semi-quantitative scale, he was a +2 drinker, whereas to get true alcoholic withdrawal psychosis, that’s +3 territory, as is DT’s which is +4.
Why did we give up that handy system to express ourselves?
Now, my boy was never sweetness & light personified, and he could be a right asshole, I’m sure, given the situation. But it wasn’t alcohol, it was ICU psychosis.
And some uneducated, untrained dingbat ruined his life, because a whole Jenga column of resentments came crashing down on his head, family and all having “unearthed his addiction,” for which he is in “denial.”
But the idea began to form when I was talking with him, and later when we were getting ready to leave the clinic and go home, I was talking to my nurse.
Humans can turn on each other, be mean, fuck each other up good, be cruel for no reason. It’s a streak in our nature. This loudmouth douchebag in the hospital fucked my patient over good when he was out of his mind and unable to defend himself.
It is remarkable that one religion depends upon the statement of a scenario where an innocent man got fucked for no reason whatsoever, other than the malice of man.
Although the account of that man is sketchy, he seemingly could have avoided his fate by anticipation. He could have fled the cruelty that ensued. Characterologically, he was doomed to suffer this outcome, for had he been a different sort of man, he could have avoided the entire fuckshow by acting a little differently.
The analysis to this point makes no theological statements about the fellow.
Some people say that fellow was Of Divine Nature. That adds all sorts of complexities to the question. It is entirely sufficient to see that, when one has been fucked for no reason other than base human malice, whether in camp, gulag or stalag, Japanese internment camp in the wilds of Montana, slaughtered in an Indian village, or any other example of atrocity that humanity can pour out upon one another, it is not novel, it is not the first time that a human has experienced such degradation, without meriting it by action.
All religious philosophies point out that we have a mean and evil streak, that we have a seed of Nazism, of Imperial Rome and cruelty that we can only sequester but not kill.
It becomes an unsolvable riddle when one posits the fellow as God. It is credible to suggest that he knew what he had coming. It is hard to shrug off the impression that he was stupid or naive, or certainly not omnipotent, to sit on that train track and get mashed, to get crucified as the happy ending to a pretty humiliating day. Good Friday – the day that Jesus had a Very Bad Day, certainly worse than any I’ve had in my lifetime. But there’s always a tomorrow…
A central question in Christianity is: If Jesus was God, What The Fuck Was He Thinking? An element of hubris in most Christian sects is the pretense that one can answer such a question assertively, promptly, affirmatively.
Everyone should read the section of the Gospels which discusses the meditation in the Garden of Gethsemane. [Matthew 26:36, Mark 14:32]
They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. And He came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
One may, one should raise the question about how good this Guy did in picking friends. A thread runs through the entire gospel as to what losers the Apostles were – an especially remarkable thread, considering that the Apostles were the authors of the account, and even though the Winners Write History, they did an abjectly poor job at making themselves look like Hot Shit On Fire.
Matthew offers his own take, not much different:
Jesus said to (Peter), “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.”
So. These homies suck even more x-tremely than the Mark account. One will deny him. When the going gets tough, the rest of them cop some righteous Z’s. They stall out on the important principle, IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM, DUDE! (none of the homies were hurt in the following Passion Play.) And then one of the chief BFF’s gives him a smooch, to bring him down. This was before the technology of wearing wires.
And according to this account, he knew exactly what was going down.
He didn’t want it, but He wasn’t going to try to stop it.
If that is God…why?
Struggling with the riddle.
There are two riddles – an independent one, and a dependent one. The first involves a moral choice. The second one is ultimately unanswerable by the human mind. The first one only requires that Jesus was a man – or even that the story of Jesus is a meaningful myth-
As to what happened to Jesus on Good Friday:
- He got what He deserved. He broke the Rules. Rules matter, and people are disposable. Justice was rightly done, the justice of ressentiment of the crowd.
- People matter. Humans are the center of civilization. He got screwed.
If one selects the first answer, all is cozy. If one selects the second answer, there is another.
- If Jesus was merely a man, he knew what it meant to be screwed, and experienced it.
- If Jesus was also somehow God, then God knows what it means to be screwed, and has experienced it. That concept makes God a profoundly intimate presence.
I suggest that it is impossible for human reason to definitively solve the latter riddle. Our existence may involve the path of chasing the answer, and the answer is the pursuit. The sequelae of 2.2 are even harder – if God chose to experience the world as humans do, even the bad parts, WHY? That is an even higher order of infinity that we cannot imagine, an א -two, much less can we think in meaningfully.
Back to my patient. He was f’cked by the Mechanical Retail Medicine Machine. I am a chooser of answer #2, that humans actually matter. Allowing for the resounding meaningfulness of the myth – were there a real Jesus, then he would have understood, better than anything else, my patient’s experience, as well as all experiences where people are unfairly f’cked. If Jesus WAS a real man, then he did have the capacity to understand, in reality and not myth. And were Jesus in fact God, then God understands what our experience is like. That is an awesome concept. I suggest we cannot even grasp it significantly.
PS:I wrote to a colleague today:
I imagine they’d say I’m not much of a Christian, either, because I tend to mix up Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Jesus.
Rabbi Hillel spoke with a heathen who jeered him by saying, “Teach me the Torah while I stand on one foot.”
Of course Hillel, too, saw that the heathen was scoffing, but calmly and patiently he said:
“You want to learn a great deal quickly, don’t you? Very well, I shall teach you the Torah while you stand on one foot. This is our Holy Torah: ‘What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.'”
The heathen forgot that he had come only to jeer.
“Does it mean that the heathens and the Jews and all of us are brothers? Does it mean that we must be kind to one another like brothers?” asked the heathen, wonderingly.
“That’s it, my son. That’s the meaning of the whole Torah. All the rest is only an explanation of that. Go, go, my son. Go and study it,” said Hillel kindly.
“When may I come for another lesson?” asked the heathen humbly”
But here’s another statement, this one by Jesus:
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me …?” Peter said to (Jesus) , “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” (Jesus) said to him, “Tend my lambs.”
(Jesus) said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to (Jesus) , “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” (Jesus) said to him, “Shepherd my sheep.”
(Jesus) said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because (Jesus) said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to (Jesus) “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus, of course, used the term “sheep” as a metaphor for “people” or “congregation.”
Whom should I listen to?
I must be a terrible Christian in the eyes of so many, if I cannot be self-assured of the divinity of Jesus or of Hillel, but instead simply follow their words equally and ignorantly of the intellectual and deeper theology. Fortunately, there are so few Christians around to ask; it makes for a quiet life. Gd may live and rest in the Temples and Churches (if there is a Gd.) But it is a place of rest – Gd’s work is not done there.
So whom should I listen to and obey? Reb’ Hillel, Reb’ Jesus – or both of them?
That is what medicine means to my existence. I wish I was more knowledgeable about the greater things of religion as so many are – all I seem to do is medicine.
I helped my brother yesterday, on a Saturday, because he was sick. I treated and consoled him. I wish I knew of greater and more magnificent things to do. I am confused by all the theology, and the complexity and manifestations and Deontology and such that the wise and learned have sat around and calculated through. It is too hard for me. I am not even sure that there is a G*d. There must be a rule I have broken for working on Saturday, I suspect.
Bertrand Russell and Christianity
Bertrand Russell wrote an excellent essay, “Why I Am Not a Christian.“ It is very compelling. Russell did not think Jesus could be divine, because he was manifestly imperfect as a human being. Jesus truly did have impulse and anger issues that would be unseemly for a true manifestation of G*d.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?”
He certainly had more anger issues than Hillel, that is true, and Bertrand Russell raised a good point. On matters of divinity, I’ve already said, I do not understand much about those things. But he certainly does seem angry about hypocrites. Had he said “false Christians” instead of “Pharisees” well, that would be uncomfortable. But in his time, Jesus was a Jew, and all he had to point out were the Pharisees.