This is a hard TedTalk to watch. Not only does Kate discuss her cancer diagnosis, and her struggle in a very straight-froward manner, she also takes on this idea that life is fair, or that everything is part of a plan for our own prosperity. She studied the religious connotation of this, the “prosperity gospel”, but also admits that it’s not just Christians who hold this same kind of worldview. To borrow a quote:
I got thousands of letters and emails. I still get them every day. I think it is because of the questions I asked. I asked: How do you live without quite so many reasons for the bad things that happen? I asked: Would it be better to live without outrageous formulas for why people deserve what they get? And what was so funny and so terrible was, of course, I thought I asked people to simmer down on needing an explanation for the bad things that happened. So what did thousands of readers do? Yeah, they wrote to defend the idea that there had to be a reason for what happened to me. And they really want me to understand the reason. People want me to reassure them that my cancer is all part of a plan. A few letters even suggested it was God’s plan that I get cancer so I could help people by writing about it. People are certain it is a test of my character or proof of something terrible I’ve done. They want me to know without a doubt that there is a hidden logic to this seeming chaos.
I quoted this part of Kate’s talk because it’s the part that resonates with me as a child abuse survivor, and mental health advocate. Survivors, how many people have learned about the abuse you’ve suffered and offered you “reasons” for it, or explained that you experienced that because you were strong enough to fulfill that plan? How horrible that is, to think that you were abused as some sort of grand plan instead the truth. We were abused because someone else decided to abuse us. It wasn’t part of a plan, our destiny, or payment for some kind of sin on our part. The only thing we did was exist. Please stop trying to explain the reasons to us.
Watch more from Kate here, it’s worth it.