An elusive feeling called pain
PAIN HAS DIFFERENT MEANING IN DIFFERENT SETTINGS, WRITES PARVEEZ SAJAD GANAI
To be a spectator of one’s life, said Oscar Wilde, is to escape its troubles. What I understand from Oscar’s assertion is that, in order to minimize the sufferings one has to experience because of one’s adverse interaction with the outside world, one has to divide oneself into two. Allowing one part of the self to suffer and asking the other one to watch the first one suffering. This way one reduces one’s ordeal is as good as watching or reading a tragedy, thereby getting entertained in the process and analyzing how one’s system reacts to the situation as also learning from the experience. This can also be put in a clinical parlance as making oneself Guinea pig for ones experiments. It may seem preposterous to say, that a human being has the capacity to break oneself into pieces and make each piece of one’s disintegrated self as one complete whole, capable of watching with complete attention the other selves of this one self, but it carries an ocean of truth in it.
Reading Hindu mythology and getting a feel of the penancing with austerity and self torture, the ancient yogis subjected themselves to, was an act undertaken towards defeating suffering by embracing it. In the beginning it attacks, then advances with more ammunition to trouble you but finally the pain itself is shamed when given an impression that its tricks are being watched. The pain at an intellectual level is as educative as reading Aristotle’s Ethics. It makes one stronger, receptive and sagacious. Physical pain is just another name of scratching the body making it clean and changing its complexion.
I am a regular visitor to a baker of my village. At 5 in the morning, he can be seen kneading his flour with great concentration being obvious of the fact that if he has to make some money his products ought to be ready before six. I would envy his calm and composure and that soothing smile which he carried in his sweet disposition. One afternoon I came to know that his 10 years old son had drowned in the village stream. For a week, he was seen crying and a pal of gloom had descended over their family. After a week, Bashir, the baker, could be seen again at his normal best with all his assets of facial countenance-the smile, the composure and the positive reflections-and it never appeared that there were any pretensions in his disposition. What I could infer from Bashir’s predicament is that he too had gone for division of his self with one part of his personality taking the role of Guide and healing the other one. But, Bashir’s division of self was not a deliberate act but apparently it was something intrinsic in his personality and not everybody is bestowed with this gift.
In his novella “Pierre et Jeans”, the great French story teller Guy de Maupassant, had successfully made his readers realize the pain which a person suffers having suspicion over the sexual conduct of his mother. Throughout the story, the elder brother wants to ask his mother, whether his younger brother Jeans was the biological son of his father. He is sure of the fornications of his mother but at the same time expecting it to be untrue. He finds it really torturing to live, under the same roof, with three people giving him three different kinds of pain. The pain by virtue of his mother having cheated his father, the pain of the bellicosity of his father who does not even have an iota of idea that he has been cuckolded by his friend and his brother who actually is not his brother but seems to enjoy the fortune that his father’s friend had willed in his name before his death. His mother also suffers at being consistently looked at with suspicion by her elder son for her adultery. In the novel, Pierre is shown to have finally come out of this trauma by submitting his torturing self to the intellectual part which asks him to talk to his mother about his predicament. The conscious division of his self and compelling one inferior self to listen to the superior self serves as panacea to him.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the person of Hamlet is being shown to have been suffering because of the conflicting resolves of the two personalities of Hamlet; the “To be” and the “Not to be”-the one asking him to kill the villain-his uncle- who had wronged his father by murdering him and marrying his wife -and the other which by virtue of his superior intellect asking him to procrastinate the revenge.
The war between the disintegrated selves of the self is no less torturing than the pain accumulated in a bruised body in a battlefield, ready to make way for the soul to return to its source. In, Dostoevsky in “idiot” incites a debate whether the death on scaffold was better or the body placed under a sharp blade wherein, in a fraction of second the head is eliminated from torso once the blade is forced on neck. While as, he says that the death by way of hanging involves tremendous physical pain, the death through blade is without any physical pain. But, Dostoevsky maintains that while a man is on scaffold he escapes the mental torture because he is experiencing the pain physically but a man lying on earth seeing the blade placed parallel over him that makes him realize that once it falls over his neck, he will cease to be...yet the time he is waiting under the blade subjects him to mental pain of the level- as the thought that after some moments he will not be there-which equals pain experienced physically while on scaffold a hundred times.”
The Gadfly “is a narrative of pain in which E L Voeunich has successfully expressed the journey of a tormented child in soul and spirit to facing physical hardships of highest degree. The young Arthur brought up amongst the rituals of church and tutorship of the pastor, one fine morning comes to know that the pastor was his illegitimate father. The child finds himself in despair beyond a despair and in order to escape the pain he contemplates suicide but later chooses some other option. All his life he gets subjected to highest degree of physical torture to escape the mental torture .This is a tale of pain, torture and physical ordeal. A child for whom belief in god and Christ was an essence mocks god all his life.
Similarly in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, the central figure of the novel, Emma, suffers terribly on account of her being in relation with a person for whom she does not feel having any sort of love and realization of her romantic world remains a distant dream. She takes refuge in the temporary relation with other two men at different points of time but gets disgusted and in the end ends her life as she couldn’t bear Ennui and Toedium vitoe. Her pain was subtle but very piercing. The suffocation within had made her emaciated and enervated with the result her intellectual self counseling her to end the drama of life. In her actual life, Virginia Woolf, unable to bear such pain as Flaubert has created in Emma Bovary, took refuge in suicide.
In Fathers and Sons Ivan Turgenev describes the pain of his protagonist in the novel, Bazarao ,who being a nihilist has to bear the taunts and satires of the representatives of tradition and culture, for the fact of his being rational and independent thinker. He is able to sublimate his pain by making his rational self understand his troubled part that if one has to be independent and rational and dares to deviate from the established mores of society than one should bear the sufferings smilingly.
The pain, be it at physical level, emotional level or intellectual level is as essential for life as life itself but the fact remains that while a person is under the influence of pain, he loathes the life itself. That is why the great French thinker and writer Albert Camus has written volumes on the importance of suicide. He says that the principal question in philosophy remains whether life is worthy to be lived or not.
(Parveez Sajad Ganai is Deputy Director, Handicrafts, Government of J&K)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 21 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 21 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST
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