Pain is a difficult thing to think about. Nobody really wants to. We just want to forget about it. Yet, we are fascinated by pain. It strikes a chord within us and we so often find ourselves putting on the brakes to catch a glimpse of it while passing a car accident. We wonder, “Is anybody hurt?”
Pain is linked to everything that is “wrong” in our lives. We try to avoid it, yet it always creeps in. We hate it the most when it presents itself for no reason at all. It is not fair.
Pain is an uninvited guest. It enters our bodies and pesters us. It pokes, prods, and sometimes goes so far as to push us down on the ground. Why? We scream for it to get out, but it comes back relentlessly. What does it want?
Animals don’t have this problem. They don’t think about their pain. Well, maybe dogs do, but most animals in the wild don’t have a clue what is going on and just do their best to keep surviving. They don’t tell stories about their pain. They might not even remember what caused it. Well, they might have a general sense to avoid whatever caused it, but they are not going to complain about their pain. We’re different because we want to share. We need an explanation. “Doctor?”
Some people really dig pain. They consider it a romantic thing that brings about personal and physical growth. They say that without it we wouldn’t know life’s greatest pleasures. “Pain shapes you. It makes you, breaks you, and remakes you. It gives you character.” People love to point out their scars. “Let me tell you about this one.”
I am moved during Braveheart when Wallace is sentenced to be “purified by pain” for being disloyal to the king. You remember the scene when he was hanged, racked, and disemboweled. He finally yells, “freedom!” I get the chills. Maybe I’ve a bit of the romantic in me.
But what Wallace experienced, that was pain. That was epic, heroic, and noble pain. That kind of pain is different than anything I’ve ever experienced and I admire how he endured it. He made his pain magical. Yeah it’s a great movie and it leaves me thinking how it takes a rare individual to take the worst possible outcome and make it seem like the most important victory is happening.
Wallace framed his pain. He lived a big life, described the big enemy, and went through the big time pain that finally put the frame around the picture of his life. He’s a kind of christ-like figure who I believe was banking on the possibility that his pain would put an end to other’s suffering. Wallace inspired his fellow Scots to continue the battle and in the end they finally won. His pain had reason. It was epic pain. It provided serious value to others lives.
Epic pain creates a kind of energy that inspires others. Pain that is framed in a greater context can become like a currency. It becomes a priceless painting or story from which others can pull value. This kind of value is like a currency. The well framed story is like an open account. People get into this account by saying things like, “I knew he who suffered. Give me what I am entitled to.” You might be familiar with this one, “I am a victim of ‘such-and-such a pain’ now pay up.”
If pain is not framed, it is worthless. People prefer pain that has meaning, that is a story, and that seems to provide value. So, most of us who suffer, try to frame our pain in order to get the reaction we want. The reaction may validate us and give us some currency with which we can reduce the pain and heal. Most of us deal with small frames, simple stories, boring tales of poor old me. We do not see the patterns in our pain which connect us with our world.
If you suffer, and you really want to put an end to pain, then you should take a hint from Wallace (no I don’t mean die). Ask yourself, “How can my meaningless pain be epic?” And then ask yourself, “How can I frame my story so that it can help stop the suffering of the whole?” Many people frame their pain within a religious context. Others relate their pain to political forces. Some may very well feel victimized by corporate enemies. It may not be clear how to do it, but it’s worth thinking about you’ll keep reading this.
To get the big frame you need to paint a big picture and most great epics requires a pretty daunting enemy. The picture must be so big that other people can practically walk into it. The way you frame your pain helps people realize the commonalities between their suffering and yours. They see that they too might be up against a similar enemy.
Your pain is meaningful. You may not see it yet. Something is wrong with this world. There are hidden enemies to be revealed. While most turn to fiction, fantasy, or religion I ask that you look deeper. I ask that you start to investigate and share your findings with others. I’m telling you now that nobody should be suffering. Pain is a serious ordeal that shouldn’t be exploited. Yet, others are profiting from your pain. Shouldn’t you be profiting from your pain? After all, it is yours, isn’t it?
It’s unjust. If anyone is to profit from pain it should be those of us who feel it. The currency we receive from our pain should only be able to buy one thing, and one thing only… It should be able to purchase our healing, justice through reconciliation. Nobody knows how to end pain better than us. Right doctor? Work with us here. I want to see more doctors on social networks, opening their minds to collaborate with citizen scientists. Their expertise needn’t remain in a highly paid silo that doesn’t advance healing at all levels. Seriously.
I know this idea has some resonance with religion. I mean, take a look at Christianity. Many turn to Christ because he experienced the ultimate pain from which he could purchase the sufferings from anyone who called on his name. The story of Christ is so wide open you can walk into it anytime. Many do, however, it doesn’t work for everybody. Even Christians suffer. At some point we are all going to take up our own crosses and faith in Christ alone will not relieve our burdens. I’m not trying to invite a religious discussion. I’m trying to get you to think about your pain, your karma, your purpose.
Experience counts for something. Sometimes there is no magic cure. Miracles happen but most of the time they don’t. Sometimes you have to do the unbearable and realize that when all is said and done, you might be able to frame your pain in such a way that it keeps others from going through it. You kinda have to tell your story, my friend. Pretty soon when enough people like you start sharing their stories, they start realizing who their true enemies are. A greater -shared narrative- emerges.
The point of this discussion is to arrive at a possibility. What I am proposing is for our emerging participatory culture to begin sharing and defining the enemy. To say it is Big Pharma, or the government, or the FDA is not being specific enough. We need to describe the characteristics of our enemies. For they are within every institution out there. There may even be traces of these characteristics within us. We have to start by admitting everything we don’t really know and how we can get answers. Our pain should compel us to investigate and source our knowledge and intution regarding this heaping mess of pain we’re in. We need to take personal responsibility for our pain and collective responsibility for each other’s pain. We need to undertake this epic voyage together. This will be the only way we ever get to the bottom of this and finally show epic pain the end.