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|Posted on November 8, 2020 at 9:42 AM|
Wisdom and Pain
“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.” – Robert Gary Lee
“Ouch! That hurt.”
We’ve all uttered those words in our lives. Maybe you said it right after a fall, feeling the pinch of an injection, or if someone said something hurtful. Whatever the cause of your pain, it produced discomfort, and you wanted it to stop.
Pain is a universal experience. No creature on the planet is exempt from feeling it. It’s a biological mechanism that maintains balance in our system, and like an indicator on a dashboard of a car, it lets us know when something isn’t right.
However, many of us don’t see the pain this way. Instead, we see it as an inconvenience. In the past, when religion and superstition reigned supreme, pain was seen as a punishment, meted out by the Gods in response to immoral behavior. Today we see it as some kind of defect that needs to be fixed or cured.
We’re naturally drawn to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s encoded in our our reptilian brain. We can all agree that touching a hot stove or brushing against a sharp object is going to hurt, however, there are some forms of pain that are subjective. Pain can be interpreted differently on an individual level, both due to different pain thresholds, and what we personally consider to be pleasure or pain.
The majority of us have a low tolerance for pain, and the forces of capitalism are glad to offer us solutions. Our culture of ‘painkillers’ offers a plethora of choices to numb our pain such as antidepressants, alcohol, recreational drugs, sugar and social media. We do use our systems with these instruments of pleasure to escape reality.
In her book, When Things Fall Apart, Buddhist monk Pema Chödrön says, “Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape — all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.”
While quick-fixes work on a temporary basis, it’s detrimental to our transition into conscious and evolved beings. When we avoid pain, we are missing the deeper and enriching experience that’s on offer. The more we resist and push away the pain, the more that we are inviting it to stay.
Like a persistent cosmic postman, it won’t go away until we understand the root cause. Just as light cannot exist without the dark, the human experience is not complete without moments of sadness. In fact, I think that life would be rather drab and predictable if we constantly lived in a utopia, never encountering bends on our path.