Friday, June 14, 2019

That Is The Beauty Of Pain

Most babies cry within the first few minutes of their lives. It seems that at least some babies even cry while in their mother's wombs, apparently in response to unpleasant stimuli, like the mother's use of tobacco or as a response to certain sounds. Newborns cry, on average, for two hours out of every 24 and by six weeks they are crying for three hours a day.

We are born knowing that there is pain in the world and it doesn't take long for any of us to likewise discover that pain comes in many forms, both physical and emotional. We learn quite early that life can be unfair, disappointing, and frustrating. No matter how much we want to, we cannot protect our children from becoming experts on pain, nor should we even if we could. Of course we protect them, of course we do what we can to prevent unnecessary pain, but we will all, invariably, continue to learn the lessons of pain right up to the day we die.

Just as we know that a baby's cry is a form of communication, a signal to the world that something is not right, that something needs to change, we likewise know that pain is a message. In the beginning we must rely upon adults to make the changes needed, but the older we get, the more we come to rely upon our own resources to take action against our pain, although we will always need other people: there is no greater suffering than to suffer alone.

As parents of newborns, we see it as our job to mitigate their pain, to find the cause of their tears, and to then take actions to soothe them, to teach them that while there is pain there is also an end to pain. And this is, I think, the most important lesson we learn from our pain: it will end and it will require the help of others to bring it to an end. This is why babies whose cries are not answered roll over and die. This is why prisoners kept in solitary confinement descend into insanity. We don't like our pain, we do whatever we can to avoid it, but when we suffer, and we inevitably must, we have no recourse other than to reach out to our fellow humans, to connect with them, to be soothed by them, and we too, in turn, must soothe them. That is the beauty of pain: every cry is a cry in search of you.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
                                     ~John Donne

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