|William Blake's 'Job's Comforters'. Source: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/633.html|
Contrary to the usual notion of Job, he is not a patient sufferer, enduring his ordeal with a firm faith in God – on the contrary, he complains all the time, rejecting his fate (like Oedipus at Colonus, who is also usually misperceived as a patient victim resigned to his fate). When the three theologians-friends visit him, their line of argumentation is: if you are suffering, you must by definition have done something wrong, since God is just. Like Oedipus at Colonus, Job insists on the utter meaninglessness of his suffering – as the title of Job says: “Job Maintains His Integrity. ” Job’s properly ethical dignity lies in the way he persistently rejects the notion that his suffering can have any meaning, either punishment for his past sins or the trial of his faith, against the three theologians who bombard him with possible meanings – and, surprisingly, God takes his side at the end, claiming that every word Job spoke was true, while every word the three theologians spoke was false. (http://www.lacan.com/symptom6_articles/zizek.html)
To an extent this understanding of suffering proposed by Zizek echoes the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, the recognition and acceptance of which is the necessary condition for the fruitful cultivation of ethical conduct, mental clarity and composure, and wisdom-compassion—for becoming otherwise. I wonder if Zizek would appreciate this if he had given more attention to the rich and diverse teachings of Buddhism themselves, rather than fixate on the ideological imperatives circumscribing the development of 'Western Buddhism' and thus perpetuate decontextualised, inaccurate readings of ancient non-Western sacred understandings. To be sure, 'Western Buddhism' is not inherently flawed nor are Zizek's claims entirely invalid if they are properly contextualised. But what next, one could ask, after making the sweeping conclusions he does? More precisely, what would be a responsible response to the adherents of Buddhism (a reification invented by Europeans) in other life-worlds, many of whom have so often been told by Westerners (who hold a religion/philosophy distinction not found in, but is today universalised and projected onto their tradition) that they ought to know better?