Feel No Pain

As I understand it, women’s inability to remember the pain of childbirth is evolutionary. The theory goes that if women did remember the pain of childbirth they would be far less likely to have a second baby, let alone a third, fourth, or fifth. Leave it to science to reduce humanity’s capacity to endure suffering to some handy genetic blind spot. As if bringing forth life is akin to touching a hot stove. And now, to think about it, while I have never given birth, I have had my share of physical pain, and the truth is I can’t remember any of it. For instance, once during an aikido demonstration I rolled my ankle. I still remember the awareness that my foot was twisted the wrong way, I can remember the sound of my tendon popping, but I cannot actually remember the physical pain. I do remember rolling on the ground and clutching my ankle; I do remember, as if it were yesterday, how afraid I was that I wouldn’t be able to work and support the child my wife was about to deliver—but I cannot remember the actual physical sensation.

Suspicious, isn’t it? And isn’t it odd how hollow our writing becomes when we try to describe pain? Isn’t it odd how impotent words like searing, burning, and aching are to render this sensation we call pain. I read these words in a book and they are nothing but code to remind me that the character is in physical pain, but I feel nothing.

Yet the moment the writer renders fear, love, loss, or desire I am there with the character. It is almost as if physical pain means nothing at all, can leave no mark but the odd scar. It is as if all that actually matters to us is what we fear and what we love.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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