If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then is pain in the mind of the perceiver, but no amount nor degree of perception can definitively tell one that this which does not kill you will make you stronger, or that the pain is a signal of something worse than what is expected.
Simply summarised, that which hurts may be useful and deleterious, sometimes at the same time. Conversely, painless afflictions occur, with terminal stages manifesting pain, but only too late. Take for example pulmonary barotrauma (discussed in Pathology last afternoon), in which the lungs expand when a diver ascends too fast, during which little or no pain is felt until the lungs actually burst. A scenario that is truly terrifying despite being a load of hot (decompressing) air.
Yet most of the pain we feel today is positive pain – at least, we seek positive pain as we do pleasure. The pain of the death of a favourite character in a drama series, the pain felt after working out or training for several hours, the politically incorrect pain that deviants seek (and do not deny that they do it) for the sake of pleasure. As I write this, my body aches from the muscle ache from squatting after having less than 6 hours of sleep the previous day, and from a sore, post-chiropracty neck, yet I feel good about both sources of pain because I know and believe the process will make me stronger (and healthier I suppose).
Having just read this, I am also reminded of the pain of “failure”, as subjective as it may be when the post is taken into perspective.
However, amongst the pain we seek and thrive on in knowledge that we will be better for it, there is one that this writer is grappling with, which started with a simple question 2 days ago:
“Why do you go to orchestra?”
It was an honest comment directed at me from one senior to me, of whom I felt I could read moderately well, and that belief made the question strike raw. She had offered her story, prior to her imminent departure to the States to further her studies in music, another one of the recent examples I can name who decided to do a second (Bachelor’s) degree in music and which seems like a trend that is reflecting on our society (but I digress). Her point was that (if I interpreted correctly) that she goes to orchestra because she feels a need to, compelled to, and according to her without this orchestral experience she would not have made the decision to pursue this second degree. To me, it was the music that was her driving force (after all she said she felt uneasy if she missed rehearsals, something I’ve yet to feel =p).
My pain (fortunately) did not come from any rehearsal-related aspects, but from my honest, almost unnoticeable lack of an answer. For a long time I have played in ensembles and orchestras, since I was in primary school (in both string and guzheng ensembles) till today where I lead sections (usually because of lack of manpower).
I didn’t have a reply.
So I went, “uhh.. hmm. Everything I guess”.
Never had I guessed wilder outside an examination hall.
Long had I assumed that such a no-brainer could stump me, but looking back, I realised I did many things for the sake of perceived, contrived responsibility.
“If I don’t go today there will be X violas.”
“I missed so many rehearsals already so I should go.”
“I’m leading this.”
“We’re playing _____. ****.”
So indeed what was I playing for? Why did I go for orchestra? That pain that I felt did not even sting, but was literally of the cliched “emptiness” or “hollow feeling” one feels when looking down at (or imagining) a bottomless chasm. I had no antidote for that, nor did I know that the feeling would pass I would be stronger for it. This may be the elusive (for my age) “mid-life crisis”, familiar to some but not to me, and this pain offered nothing. Despair maybe, but nothing more.
As with most injuries, I take solace in the belief that, usually, structurally stronger scars form upon healing, yet this remains an open wound as of this time. However I have no confirmation that I will even be the wiser upon finding my answer, that this pain may be worthless (do you ever get that feeling that all that you do may just not be worth it).
Is there a better strategy to pain than the tried-and-tested triumvirate of Avoidance, Perserverance and Relishing?