Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them. . .
This problem, described in archaic language by a Shakespearean prince, Hamlet, can be stated more simply this way:
Should we suffer, or should we fight?
Should we accept the world as it, or is it better to struggle against all the bad stuff?
Should we concede, or strive toward tikkun olam, the repairing of the world?
And even if we choose to oppose the (sea of) troubles in this life, can our resistance put an end to them? Can “opposing” those troubles actually defeat them?
If you or I can put an end to the injustice and or dysfunction of this world, then maybe we should get busy working toward that end. But if this quest–to resist the evil of this world– is fruitless, a lost cause, then why bother? What difference does it make?
Maybe we just have to suffer through it.
That’s what one religious founder, Jesus of Nazareth, did. He suffered through the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that were flung upon him. He suffered all the way through torture and crucifixion until death itself overtook him.
For a few days.
But his boldly compassionate life included not only suffering and bearing the pain, it also included serious resistance against the powers that be. He was a man who took arms, spiritually, against a sea of troubles, by speaking publicly against the injustice that humans impose upon one another, and he used his hands proactively to heal people, and to release folks from suffering and oppression.
I think his life was quite unique in this respect: he actually, and very effectively, trod a middle path between these two choices–submission and resistance.
He was an example of bearing up under the burden of suffering, while simultaneously launching a campaign against what is wrong in this world of human striving that manifests as dogmatic religion and ineffective government.
Now we know from history that Jesus’ struggle to live a meaningful life, a life that truly made a difference, was a failure.
Because, you know, he ended up dead and publicly humiliated and all that.
On the other hand, if you consider what all has been done in his name since he lived, it could be that the work of his life–the suffering and the active resistance–attests that his legacy is more perpetual than it may at first appear.
From the standpoint of world history, his story is everlasting. This persistent story of a savior who conquered death itself has transcended the world. He has won the world by overcoming the world’s cynical resistance.
His was the greatest life ever lived. He opposed the slings and arrows by submitting to them. Thus he rendered them powerless against his sacred work. He overcame the world. Who else has done such a thing? and then lived to tell about it. You gotta believe.
This was accomplished, paradoxically, without actually “taking arms.” He fired no gun, wielded no knife. Jesus’ only sword was the one in his mouth. What an exceptional way to repair the hearts of men, as if that were possible!
While other religionists have resorted to the sword of conquest, here was a man whose only weapon for opposing the evils of mankind was the sword of the Spirit.
To be, or not to be (with Him). . . that is the question.