Blossom breaking out, fields covered with dazzling small daisies. Good to see this on a day when I have no heart to read world news. Through the sunshine and lively buzz of bees and sweet musical song of the Piet-my-vrou, our African nightingale, the dazzle of wild flowers and scent of wild jasmine, through all this warmth and loveliness, I can feel the darkness descending. Horror each time I glance at headlines.
— Anne Carson, Decreation
But on we go, and the world goes on turning, inexorably, beautifully. Reminding myself throughout of the day of the goodness of so many around us, human kindness, sanity, tenderness in a time when a death-dealing inhumanity seems to sweep through nations and continents. We each have our weaknesses and evasions that somehow add up to wider social avoidance and obliviousness in the face of violence and evil. I think it was Leonard Woolf who said after his wife Virginia’s drowning, “There is no limit to one’s stupidity and selfishness.” And yet, we go on doing our best and trying to protect the vulnerable and threatened among us, wishing we could do more.
Ladling out soup for an elderly neighbour in severe pain and thinking about how we struggle to express the nature of such pain and distress, how we struggle to imagine and empathise with the pain of others. The languages of pain have a history, well, many histories and many languages, and none seem to suffice
Pain routinely tests the limits of conventional language. Yet words remain the principal means by which sufferers seek to make sense of their suffering; to lend some sense of order to the chaos that being in pain imposes; and to elicit succour and sympathy from others, not least from the physicians we all now routinely consult in search of surcease.
If the languages of pain have a history, pain itself has a story – many stories, in fact. In that sense, Bourke’s title is misleading, both in purporting to tell the story of pain, and in implicitly suggesting that that story is a simple progression from an earlier, pre-enlightened period, when we invested pain with theological significance and sought to soothe our sufferings with prayer and appeals to the Almighty, to an era of scientific progress, where we interpret pain naturalistically and medicate it into submission.
Sitting in meditation this morning, what I sometimes think of as my unquiet time, and surprised by a splash of sunlight on the floor earlier than usual. Dust motes like twirling ballerinas in the stream of sun, a sight that enchanted me as a child, how the air around us is filling with dancing particles and airy creatures.
Gathering strength so that I take in that deep, deep breath and stand up, stretch and begin again, find the energy to go on, to keep reaching out, trying to understand, finding better ways to protest injustice and help those in need. To understand what may be possible, what can be transformed. Via whiskey river
“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habits, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work; there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”
– D. H. Lawrence