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On the Pedagogy of Suffering

Hermeneutic and Buddhist Meditations


Edited By David W. Jardine, Christopher Gilham and Graham McCaffrey

This text articulates how and why suffering can be pedagogical in character and how it is often key to authentic and meaningful acts of teaching and learning. This is an ancient idea from the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus (c. 525 BCE) – pathei mathos or «learning through suffering». In our understandable rush to ameliorate suffering at every turn and to consider every instance of it as an error to be avoided at all costs, we explore how the pedagogy that can come from suffering becomes obscured and something vital to a rich and vibrant pedagogy can be lost. This collection threads through education, nursing, psychiatry, ecology, and medicine, through scholarship and intimate breaths, and blends together affinities between hermeneutic conceptions of the cultivation of character and Buddhist meditations on suffering and its locale in our lives. This book will be useful for graduate courses on hermeneutic research in education, educational psychology, counseling, and nursing/medicine.


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Chapter Eighteen: The Comfort of Suffering (Gilbert Drapeau)


The Comfort of Suffering gilbert drapeau “Why doesn’t she just hit me?” A foster child asked me this about his foster mother. The child was unable to deal with or understand the concept of consequences. “If she just hits me, it will be over, then I can move on.” Hitting, for this child, was a known entity. It was acknowledged and un- derstood as a way of being, no matter its abusive connotations. The concept of consequence, of rational cause and effect, in this case an episodic withdrawal of extracurricular activities, was, to this child, a greater suffering than physical abuse administered incidentally as a timely action understandable within the child’s usu- al familiar context. In Social Work, whatever the program, an individual is, ideally, moved from a troubled situation to a new, hoped-for, beneficial one. The helper proposes a new avenue where suffering is naught or resolved. One of the great truths of the helping professions that is often ignored is that the suffering will never be ended. It can only be transformed. A scar will always mar the cancer patient’s body; the amputee will always be missing a limb; the once-snake-bitten will always err in caution in the desert. The ultimate current cyclical failure of human services programming fails on three levels: C h a p T e r e i g h T e e n 142 | gilber t drapeau • The limited understanding of the impact of one’s comfort in suffering that which is known; • The destabilization...

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