Lately I’ve been living in an intimate relationship with pain, sometimes a lot of it. Due to surgery, I have drifted through a number of days in a fog caused by medications — even though the fog truly did not negate the awareness of pain. In the hospital, a cryo-unit alternately set my body to freezing and burning. Very kind aides forced me to push through the static pain into mobile pain. Physical therapists joked and nurses prodded me onward. As medical professionals asked me to rank my pain, often on a minute-by-minute basis, I’ve become aware of my body’s moments of relief. I’ve learned to balance my movements with the resulting pain and to compare how I feel at the current moment to how I felt yesterday (or an hour ago).
This experience has led to some odd reflections on the nature of pain and its uses — assuming that pain is useful in ways other than as an automatic biological reaction. I can understand why people choose a painful experience because it is the means to reach a specific goal, but I don’t understand why some people search out the experience of pain for its own sake. Over the years, I’ve had this conversation with many others; I’ve asked a lot of questions, but I’m still confused.
Recently during one of those conversations, a dear friend pointed out that “shamans go through ordeals too.” I replied something like “I didn’t really ask for pain during those initiations.” My response might have been naïve, but it highlights the difference: I did not view pain as necessary to learning. I still don’t. I don’t see pain as a requirement for a religious experience. It might have been a side affect of a shamanic experience, but it was not the goal for me. Nor do I find pain sexy. I don’t even see it as particularly noble. Perhaps this opinion is a function of age (mine, I mean). Maybe I’m just not searching so hard for that hard-to-define something or perhaps I’ve missed something.
You, my dear reader, won’t find any answers in today’s post. Thank you for reading my ramblings. I would like to ask you what you think. What is your opinion? Do you see validity in purposefully seeking pain? If so, why? Does pain teach you? How? Is it like the Three Days Grace song: “… I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all?” Truly, I would like to know your viewpoint.