The Vocabulary Of Pain

We have to live in some awfully small places, don’t we? We have to live in some terribly small places. I am overcome with sorrow now that I have this thought. So much sorrow – sorrow without a beginning or an end. I don’t know where all that sorrow comes from. I didn’t see it coming – it’s like a sudden avalanche of awareness – sorrowful awareness.


We have to adapt to some awfully small places. Not just live. Living is different to adapting. We have to make our home there – we have to say that we belong. Not just say it either, we have to feel it, believe it. We have to make it into a truth. Our truth. The truth that we live by. Defend it to the hilt. Hurt people for it. Lash out to protect it. If they question the sanctity of our small space. Which we always have to say is great.


When we adapt to a small space then our life of course becomes just as small as the space we have adapted to – it becomes small and painful. We can never be any more than it and so there can only ever be pain here. There’s nothing else here but pain. Smallness is pain, narrowness is pain, restriction is pain. It’s all pain. It’s all misery. So we have to learn the vocabulary of pain – that’s what adaptation means. What else could it mean? Did you really think it could mean anything different? It’s only a lie that it could mean something different. That’s the lie we are all fed, the lie we feed ourselves on. The Big Lie…


We have to live in some terribly narrow spaces sometimes, don’t we? How do we manage, I wonder. You’d have to wonder. Just how the hell do we put up with it, make a go of it? Make a life of it…


No one ever says anything about it though. We’ll talk about anything else but not this. No one ever names the small spaces. No one ever says it like it is. There’s no grace in this way of life, that’s my realization. No grace at all. Nothing graceful. Nothing good, no benediction. Nothing kind. It all harsh, all vicious. Life has been made into something ugly, something brutal. There’s nothing gentle about it – instead of gentleness there is only aggression. Life is only for the strong, the ones who excel at the game. The Takers. That’s the message we are brought up on.


The awareness that came to me is that aggression is essentially a tragic sort of thing. It’s tragic for all of us. Aggression comes out of smallness, it comes out of restriction. That’s what we don’t understand. That’s what we can’t see. Aggression is tragic because it never obtains what it wants to obtain. That’s because aggression is pretending – it’s a small thing pretending not to be small. It’s a small thing pretending to be so much bigger than it really is. When it’s not so big at all. When it’s not actually anything at all. When it doesn’t actually exist in the first place.


That’s what hurts so much, of course. I can see that now. I’ve learned to see that. What hurts is when what we’re pretending to be gets challenged, gets shown up to be false. Because we ourselves don’t know that we’re pretending. We don’t understand that. We genuinely don’t know. They tell us that it’s real. We tell ourselves that it’s real.


We have to pretend. That’s the only way we know to survive here. That’s the only way there is to survive here! We have to pretend to be bigger than we really are; we have to pretend to be different to what we really are. We have to pretend that the small, mean spaces which we have adapted to aren’t small, aren’t mean. That they’re great, that they’re magnanimous (just like every tyrant likes to say that he’s magnanimous. We have to pretend that our pain is someone else’s fault. We have to believe that if we try hard enough to be what we aren’t, and what we never could be, then everything will come out OK. We have to pretend that if we keep on with what we’re doing then everything will somehow come out ‘sunny-side up’. But it never will…



Art: Marcus A. Jansen, “Surreal” (2009)




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