Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pain

The second penalty of "original sin," as Gatto sees it, is pain. "Pain is a friend, because it forces our attention away from the world and refocuses it squarely on ourselves. Pain of all sorts is the way we learn insight, balance, and self-control. The siren call of "Feel good!" lures us to court desirable sensations and to despise pain as a spoiler of pleasure. Pain, however, is the road to self knowledge."

When I think about the pain in my life, I am convinced that Gatto is right. Pain is a friend. Perhaps not always, and not for all people, but for me, it has been a road to self-knowledge, and it has been a blessing. I used to be afraid of it, and run from it; but I never escaped. Then I turned into it and embraced and felt it fully. I found that not only did I survive, not only did it pass, but now I'm not afraid of it anymore.

Pain is the body's or the mind's signal that there is something wrong in your life, with which one must deal – and heal.

It was psychic pain that taught me to accept and embrace who I am, and enabled me to face a society that often disapproves of my transition, and holds me and it as insane, depraved, and contemptible. It taught me the value of integrity and connection, and enabled my courage. It taught me the value of marriage, and how very much I treasure that potentially happy estate.

Physical pain taught me much, as well. A back injury taught me the limitations of my body. Working through tendonitis taught me endurance and toughness, and inspired creativity. (I was on a boat without access to splints or anything, so I cut up a coat hanger, shaped it to hold my hand immobile, and taped it on with electrical tape. Crude, but it worked. I did, too.) I've learned a lot through pain – how to breathe into it, face it, experience it, relax into it, let it pass through you. If you tense up, it stops and stays inside.

Pain has taught me compassion. That alone makes it worthwhile.

While it's true that pain is not fun, and it's not desirable for its own sake, its effects are often salutary. Like anyone else, I'll do what I can to avoid it. Yet I've found that the best way to avoid it is to face it full on and experience it fully. Somehow, that makes it bearable, and often seems to enable me to go through it and out the other side. It's not fun, but it is a friend.

8 comments:

David Carrel said...

On your first Original Sin post you asked in your comments, "Where do you find meaning in a perfect world?"
Great question and I will answer it in the hypothetical.
What if the reason for God creating humans was to worship God and enjoy Him forever? If God created man so that man's greatest joy and enjoyment would be in perfect fellowship with God, just as God the Father is in perfect fellowship with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, then in a perfect world man would be able to perfectly enjoy God forever. This would be equally joyful and perfect for both man and God. But if God created man with no choice but to worship Him, then would that not just make man a robot?

So when you ask where we find meaning in a perfect world, I would answer the same as in an imperfect world. If the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, then doing just that will bring the ultimate enjoyment for me as well as for God.

So God is not ego centrist as it would appear because He knows that man's greatest enjoyment will come when man is worshiping Him.

I hope that made sense, but if it did not, feel free to read John Piper's Desiring God, Reason for God by Tim Keller, older works by Jonathan Edwards and St Augustine.

Seda said...

Wow! What a big can of worms you open with that comment, David! Maybe I'll post on it.

Meanwhile, though, what does it mean to you to "worship God and enjoy Him," and to "glorify God?"

'Cause it seems to me that it would be really important to know what you're doing, if that's the reason we're here...

David Carrel said...

Yes, you are exactly right that it would be good to know what we are doing in worshiping Him and glorifying Him forever. I think that worship through prayer is major, but a lot of it is through enjoying a relationship with Him. I know that is kind of funny to hear because God is not like your buddy you call up to go play cards with or go to a movie with. But I have a personal relationship with God in which He speaks to me, not vocally, but through His peace that passes all understanding, through His Word, the Bible, and through the calm. God is there for me in the Pain and suffering that you have written about. All of who i am rests in who HE is.
To glorify Him is to exalt Him in all my actions, in what I say, in how I treat others, and in every area of my life. My life is not about me, (although I make it about me way too much) it is about glorifying God be knowing Him and making Him known. I am trying to be constantly conformed to the image of His Son despite my many imperfections. I am trying to show God's love to everyone who I come into contact with, thus exalting who He is.
I hope that makes sense. I understand if you do not really get my point. Even the Bible says that it appears as foolishness to those who do not believe. So I do not expect you to be on the same page, but I know that I have been fully persuaded in my own mind.

Fannie said...

Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

I am still learning that pain is a normal part of life, and that mental pain especially can be a great teacher.

Seda said...

Hey, David,
I understand well enough. I got “saved” many years ago, and spent years reading the Bible and going to church and praying to Jesus and generally being totally confused. I stopped when I realized that it wasn’t meeting my needs very well. I saw that I could worship God better by watching a single sunrise than by spending a year in church – or a lifetime. That I could no more judge another human for her choices than I could fly to the moon by flapping my arms. It gradually became quite clear to me that I’d been lied to – that Jesus is not God, but that God is Love, and Jesus is just the Christ who best exemplified man’s genuine relationship to God. It was a long process, and it’s still going on, even though I quit the Baptists and became a Christian Scientist 25 years ago, and quit being a Christian Scientist nearly 15 years ago. I had the great good fortune to get married to an incredibly wise woman, and I’ve been able to witness her own growth and to learn from it, and the equally great good fortune to be born to and raised by a woman who lives her Christian Science from a quiet, confident, yet flexible depth of compassion.

I don’t get hung up on it any more. If your religion meets your needs, that’s great – live it. You’re a seeker of truth, I really believe, and I have no means to judge the Truth you live. But that’s not all there is to it. God is way too big to fit into the Bible – yet if it is the Bible which makes God accessible to you, by all means use that door. I don’t fear for your soul, nor mine. Life it too beautiful, too interesting, too sacred, to not live it as fully as possible.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that to me, glorifying God is playing with a child. It’s holding the hand of someone sick, or dropping my plans for the evening to help a friend in need. It’s watching the sunset, and biking in the rain, and making love, and holding a child, and breathing deep into pain. A walk in the woods, or choosing not to shoot because the deer is so beautiful, or choosing to shoot because my children are hungry. It’s tasting my food with my whole attention, whether I’m sipping Scotch whiskey or eating an apple. It’s embracing the life that God gave me with the fullness of my being. It’s a hell of a lot simpler, and more difficult, than reading the Bible and going to church. Which you know, perfectly well.

We’re all on the same path. We just can’t always see around the corner, In fact, we can’t see any farther than the headlights reach.

Seda said...

Thanks, Fannie. May your own pain bring you many blessings, and pass quickly!

David Carrel said...

Thanks for your reply Seda. It really breaks my heart to hear that the church, and even more specifically, Baptist church, did not meet your needs. I really believe that Jesus set up the church to meet all needs, but we as a church have failed so badly in that area. I have seen that so much and for that reason I wrote that book last year. I apologize once again.

Oh, and you are so right about the list of things that glorify God; whatever you eat and drink, do to the glory of God.

Seda said...

David,
Don't worry about me dropping the Baptist Church like a hot rock. God is way too big to fit into one particular religion, especially one defined by such narrow parameters. If that path leads you to nirvana or transcendence or whatever, fine. Do me the honor of being grateful I've found a better path for me. Don't feel bad or guilty, it's not your fault. And don't feel bad that the square peg of any particular religion doesn't fit into the round hole of my being.

I've heard of a study that showed that 92% of religious people ranked lower on every scale of compassion than the general population, while 8% ranked higher. Through at least 10 years of ardent religiosity, I can say with conviction I'm one of the 92%. Given that, both I and the world are better off with my rejection of religion. And God, by whatever form She manifests, is better glorified.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz