Painful Philosophising

Storm Break

Pain’s a funny thing, isn’t it?  It’s one of those suspicious things that I’m highly distrustful of.  I feel that it it’s one of those that must be quiet; a blend of feelings swirling in a confusing, unidentifiable muddle; that curious combination of shame and pride that I seem to specialise in.  Pride?  Oh yes, I am guilty of pride; a quiet pride that values discretion, silence and self-control.  And the shame?   Well, I feel shame when that secret, hidden pain seeps out into public.  I feel shame that perhaps that I’m not suffering as quietly, as dignifiedly, as worthily, as deservedly as I could or should be.  I feel shame because I doubt whether I am really as in control as I would either like to be or should be.

What is pain anyway?

I do ponder philosophical wonderings about the nature of this queer, abstract notion that in English we call ‘pain’.  I’m not a fan of the abstract, by its very nature it’s something that I can’t get a handle on.  I don’t really appreciate things that resist definition.  There’s comfort in labels and boxes, you have to admit.

So what is pain?

Is it something physical?

Now, there’s something satisfying about physical and the things that belong there.  It’s definable.  It’s tangible.  It’s real.

But what if pain isn’t physical?

Then what?

If pain isn’t definable, tangible then does that mean it isn’t real?

Then what?

Where else would pain belong?  Should we transfer it to the elusive domain of the ‘mental’?

Then what?

Well, if we push it over there then it becomes suspect.  Highly suspect.  Immediately we need to question whether or not it even exists, whether it is just some flaw or weakness of character.  Our society, our culture isn’t particularly generous or kind to or appreciative of the ‘mental’.

So I am left doubting.

What is pain?

Perhaps the problem is that English uses the word ‘pain’ in two ways, for a symptom and for suffering.  Other languages, I have observed, differentiate.  Perhaps it is the language, the word we use that blurs and confuses the nature of pain.

I am sad, I suffer, I have a broken heart, I’m in pain.

I hurt myself, I injure myself, I ache, I’m in pain.

Is one more genuine than the other?

Is one more valid than the other?

I don’t know.

But how do we decide which is which anyway?

And even if we limit ourselves to purely physical pain, how can it be defined, categorised, labelled?  We like hierarchies, meritocracies – how can I prove my pain against yours or of anyone else?

(If indeed I would want to).

(But, unfortunately, the medical and bureaucratic processes that surround us do want to).

I have a headache.

You have a headache.

Is one more genuine than the other?

Is one more valid than the other?

Is one more serious, more severe than the other?

How can we tell, how can we know?

Does it even matter?

Is pain measured by silent suffering or by the amount of pills that we consume?

Is pain measured by tears, external or internal, or stoicism?

Is pain measured by hysterics or isolation?

Does it even matter?

What is pain?

Is this pain real?

Can I just pretend it away?

(Because I’d love to, oh, I’d really love that).


2 thoughts on “Painful Philosophising

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  1. Lots to think about there. In Spanish the word dolor is pain and dolores can mean aches but also sufferings (and is also a woman’s name which is quite telling I always think). Wishing you a new year filled with joy and no dolores.

I'd love to know what you think, concrit is especially welcomed on fiction pieces. Thank you.

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