Monday, May 21, 2012

Ingredient 10 -Pain

Simply put, pain is as much a part of life as is breathing.  And it is every bit as necessary.  I once saw a documentary on the Discovery Channel ( was actually probably Oprah or Montel, but whatevs) that featured a young girl who was born with what many of us -at first consideration- would declare a super power of sorts: she was unable to feel any physical pain.  Nothing hurt her, physically.  Pretty awesome, right?  Absolutely...except for the fact that when she was a baby-going-on-toddler she used her new teeth to chew up her fingers; when she began to eat solid foods, she would chew her tongue up along with the food in her mouth; she could not feel the pain of extreme heat radiating from the stove upon which she rested her hand long enough to sustain permanent damage to it.  Because she could not feel discomfort of a physical nature, she was a constant danger to herself and had to be closely supervised at all times. 

Just as physical pain has a very important purpose to serve in warning us about any variation of detriment to our health and safety, so does mental and emotional pain exist to keep us learning about the dangers of life, and therefore makes us, as individuals, more aware of the purpose and beauty of life.  Further, and every bit as imperative to human existence as a whole, pain has the task of teaching us compassion and empathy for our fellow travelers, human and non-humans alike. 

When I think back on some of my most painful moments in this life, I can also see, in retro-spect, the lessons I learned from them.  My childhood was (and still is) a consistent and reliable source of pain for me.  But, I wouldn't change a thing about it, because I developed some of my most basic survival skills from my earliest years.  I also learned how to try to be the best, nurturing mother I can be...always.  In fact, reflecting upon all of my moments of pain and suffering in this lifetime (moments of which have been mercifully few, childhood aside), I can clearly see the necessity of each and every one. 
The absence of love put love into my looking glass

And so, it seems, pain has an "after the fact" value to us.  When we touch a hot surface,  we jerk our hand (or other extremity) away as a fast and furious reflex, but it is only after having endured the searing touch do we learn what extreme heat can do to our frail human bodies.  The same is true with emotional pain.  In almost every instance, we cannot adequately figure out the meaning or purpose of the suffering as we are going through it.  It is during these moments (and I'm assuming everyone does this) that we throw our hands up in a questioning gesture at the heavens and ask the inevitable and ever-popular, "Why?!"  Try as we might, sometimes we just can't figure out the reason behind much of our pain...until time moves on, and just as all of the parts and pieces of a good movie or a well-written book come together neatly at the conclusion of the tale, often leaving us to ponder how we didn't see the revelations sooner or read the symbolism more accurately, so does life play out for us, using pain as its most unappreciated narrative.

Pain leads to introspection, by which we find our truest truths

Of course, this whole pain-thing also begs the question: Without undergoing personal suffering, how would we know enough about anything to understand, establish, and practice the most valuable of all human commodities: Compassion, which is comprised of a coupling of Sympathy and Empathy.  This is not to say that we must suffer the exact sort of pain as another to be able to sympathize and offer compassion.  On the contrary, being able to directly relate to someone or something else's pain is not at all a prerequisite for compassion.  Instead, the sense of fellowship that arises from being a soul in motion, and as such, enduring painful circumstances as a part of life -whether comparable to another's own experience of sufferance or not- should be all we need to extend ourselves when a compassionate reach is needed.

The long and short of it: pain is necessary to our growth and survival as individual souls existing within a common spiral of experiential learning.  Indeed, pain could very well be hailed as one of life's greatest teachers, yet if we had our choice, we would chase it away, just as we would initially view the inability to feel physical duress as a magical gift from the gods.  Upon closer inspection, though, we find that not only would we sustain third degree burns in physicality by staying out in the great light of our sun for far too long, but without the soothing knowledge that comes from the singe of emotional pain, we would blindly set our very existence -both personal and collective- aflame; not knowing -until it was much too late- what we had done.


  1. Replies
    1. i like the visuals better than the written content in this one.

  2. I really enjoyed reading that x