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Sticking around to make them angry - R.H. Joseph

After acquiring the DVD recording of George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh I got to thinking about the relationship between good deeds and good fortune.

So moved was the former bass player for the Beatles by the plight of the people of Bangladesh he initiated an all-star rock 'n' roll concert to raise money and awareness about the appalling situation.

Later, as you may know, Harrison was afflicted with throat cancer. Ask anyone who has made it through the treatment, it's no fun.

Less than a year after this treatment he was attacked by a madman with a knife, suffering several stab wounds including one that pierced his lung. By the time he recovered from this assault his cancer had returned.

Following the sort of excruciating medical endgame familiar to the survivors of such unfortunates Harrison succumbed.

So much for good karma!

More recently Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, was stricken with prostate cancer. Cynics such as yours truly can't help noticing the irony.

By extension, the reverend's tendency to associate calamitous events with divine retribution, the wrath of you-know-Who, sprung instantly to mind.

Unless I've confused the details, isn't Robertson the same guy who suggested HIV/AIDS was but a manifestation of God's terrible swift sword striking down homosexuals for a lifestyle Robertson finds reprehensible?

And didn't Robertson claim the attack on the World Trade Center was yet another manifestation of the indignation of the Almighty; in this case a condemnation of the secular American lifestyle?

No doubt Robertson would aver George Harrison was likewise cursed for some cumulative infraction vastly outweighing whatever positive impact he had as a fund raiser. One wonders, would the reverend go so far as to suggest God did it because the predominant religion in Bangladesh is Islam?

So what do we make of Robertson's prostate cancer? Ordinarily apologists quickly toss in something biblical: "He works in strange ways" is always popular. So, too, is some reference to Job.

The latter not only has the effect of making everything appear logical in some transcendental way but has the added attraction of suggesting a direct relationship between the beleaguered and God.

Having had cancer myself, I can't help wondering if Robertson has developed a little humility (as I so clearly have), or will he soon suggest Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is God's punishment inflicted on the Chinese because they're neither white nor Christian. Worse still, some are actually Muslim.

Needless to say, American tourists get it because they support the godless Commie heathens and Canadians get it because enough of them speak French to make them statistically significant in God's eyes.

Of course, if Americans don't like the French, God doesn't like the French. President Bush is merely reflecting the sentiments of the true Commander-in-Chief when he points out, "You're either with us or against us!"

This brings up the final irony, my own health. More than three years have passed since I was first diagnosed with Stage 4 (bad as it gets) squamous cell carcinoma. More importantly, more than three years have passed since I completed my various therapies.

At this point the odds of a reoccurrence are extremely unlikely. Why?

Those who read my column realize that while I celebrate spirituality I consider the source of this awareness to be ineffable. Therefore my columns reflect naught but disparagement at those nall of those n who claim they can articulate the characteristics of the unbounded.

In other words, to paraphrase the considerably more fitting expression, with regard to both my affliction and physical restoration, stuff happens. Nature is capricious.

However, just to play devil's advocate (to pick an entirely arbitrary phrase), if faith followers are correct in their concrete description of the transcendentally fluid then am I still alive because God really doesn't like the holier-than-thou types and healed me just to irritate them n Pat in particular? God, I hope so!

It's funny, faith followers always assert their commitment to an external agent provides them justification for their existence while I, uncommitted as I am, have never required such an illusory raison d'?tre.

Now, though I do not require such existential sustenance, I admit there is a certain satisfaction derived from my continued presence within this mortal coil. Call it what you will but if there is a consciousness running the show He, She or It has definitely got a sense of humor!

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. His column appears on Wednesdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.