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There was something that Job could never admit: suffering released from the need to hate it—under certain conditions—is mirth. Such a thing never flitted across Job’s honest brain: a period costume, some eyeliner and rouge to enthrall the inhabitants of Uz; a broadside, a poster, a spread in the paper. According to tradition, there was little for Job to advertise, to embellish, or to put on display. No room for art. Faced with the destruction of his world, he was, or so he thought, as true and natural a sufferer as he had been a prosperous landowner before. Scion of a good family and baron of all he saw, he even knows how to make his suffering profitable. He revels in the mud into which his God has thrown him, sucking the marrow from his misery, the only one on earth to earn such a privilege. It comes naturally to him; faith makes it easy, and that ease is fatal to his faith. Job loves his suffering, treasures it, suffers without feeling punished, confident in the endless beneficence of the universe, and this is why he utters no complaint—a blunder undoubtably worse than sin, and the cautionary lesson of the book. Only God can be good and suffer at the same time. Mortals must be wicked, detest their condition, and howl over it.
Yet in Job’s drama, special effects play a bigger role than one thinks. Props: a potsherd to scrape his sores, ashes to sit in. Pyrotechnics: the Sabeans attack with whirling spears, fire rains from the sky. Mechanics: hi-key lighting (the heights of heaven), sound effects (voice from cyclone), painted flats (endless burning desert). This apocalyptic dramaturgy has rarely been surpassed. One end of the world, however, is never enough. With every epoch a new end-time theatre has to be built, different techniques for different publics.
Job never had to ask: is my hair right? Do I look good in this muddy bodysuit? The poor man was good, his suffering real, so real that nobody believed it, then or now. Even the Almighty was incredulous. Why else would he He refuse to answer the inquiry of his truest servant? Why else would He give the Accuser, ha-satan, a free hand to test him? Job never lost anything. The experience wasn’t real; it was only a test. And who could tell if he did suffer? A touch of grease paint might have saved him, convinced his judges, and, in turn, us.