Friday, March 21, 2014

The Problem of Pain

This was an assignment for a composition class I took. The assignment was rather ambiguous, but it was supposed to have something to do with voice. I did my best. It was partially sparked by a quote by C. S. Lewis, "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." Pain and grief have many similarities; fear is the constant companion of both. If you can conquer the fear, you're halfway to conquering the pain. You'll also see that I borrowed some lines and the concept from Colors, a piece I published on
Roses are never as beautiful without their thorns
Pain is relative.
In school we learned that pain is caused by our touch receptors reacting to danger, but pain is much more personal than a few electrical charges racing through our nervous system. Pain manifests itself in several ways; it can be physical, but it can also be mental. Mental is worse.
The strength of pain depends very much on how we view it. It is terrible; sometimes it rips through us and leaves us gasping. Often we wish we could die when it is at its strength, but it always ebbs again, like the tide ebbing away from the shore. Pain comes and goes.
Pain is like black.
Black is a color we seldom think about. It is everywhere and nowhere. It is dark and frightening. At night, we see jack o’ lanterns glowing eerily at us; we cannot see true forms in darkness. When I was little, I couldn’t bear to sleep without a night light, but as I grew, I found that I couldn’t sleep with one. I had to learn to deal with black.
And as I came to terms with black, I slowly realized that black is the most beautiful of all. It is the shadow behind every tree, the etching on a fine-veined leaf, the depth of every wave. At first we do not see it, but we learn to perceive it by what it shows us. Without shadows, the light would be too strong for our eyes, just as daylight is strong when you come blinking out of a dark house.
After all, who can see the stars without the night?
Like black, pain comes as shadows on the brightness of our lives. I hated pain; I couldn’t think about it. Pain scared me even more than darkness. But pain is a persistent companion that cannot be scared away with sunlight. It comes and clings like a parasite. It cannot be shaken off.
We are never too young to feel pain. Physical pain has always been part of my life. I am young, but my body is old. Sometimes I feel like an ancient, barely able to hobble across a room. At those times, I hate pain; it is always there, like a dark cloak that I cannot unfasten. At other times, it goes away and I feel as light as a feather, but it is only a spell in a storm. Pain comes knocking and I hate it all over again.
There is only one alternative left to me. I must make my peace with pain. I can’t shake it, I can’t drug it away with medication. Like the shadows behind the trees, it will always be lying in wait. Pain is my constant companion. I wouldn’t be myself without it. Sometimes I wonder where I end and pain begins.

But like shade, the sunlight will be set in bright relief by pain. Joy and happiness suddenly become much, much sweeter because of pain. I can look up and see the night sky and marvel at it, because pain has helped me see that nothing is ordinary. Every star is a work of art.

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