I couldn’t sleep last night. The old love was present. It’s so funny how a year later it can still be so painful. Brains are silly creatures, full of activity, giving rise to perception and the self. The very thought I am in pain, is already loaded with things we’re taking for granted and assuming. Think about how lucky we must be to even utter those words, and then enjoy how utterly nonsensical it is to think that thought.
The problem is already evident. Who or what is this “I” person anyway? Am I still an “I” when unconscious? What about during a coma with, no brain activity? The poor, fragile “I” seems to be on the brink of destruction from as little pressure as a soft blanket would apply while taking a nap. What about while we are awake? It seems evident that “I” can take some scrutiny. Until you try.
Meditation shows me how little consciousness matters when deciding what or where or how the “I” lives. But like religion, meditation is a personal experience and only the social sciences can really use testimonial data. For hard data, we can go to stroke patients. A specific set of victims can have cognitive hallucinations after their trauma. Some claim that their parents aren’t their parents when they’re looking at them but will recognize them when only speaking to them on the phone. That seems strange for a static and existing “I.” What about the patients that claim that the unusable arm attached to them is their brother’s arm, not their own? How can an “I” from two weeks ago, suddenly change to deny their own arm? There are also cases of hallucinations that speak to people. The hallucinated agent must also be generated from the brain that contains the “I,” who is the real “I” now? *evil laughter*
2. Am In
This one supports the notion as the body can be inside of something, or indeed like the case in point, the mind can be overwhelmed by being “in a state” or in a condition of some kind—laughing, for example. So quickly, we get a grip on how we can convince ourselves that we could truly be in pain.
A mouse can be in a box.
I can be in a state of exercise.
Therefore, I can be in pain.
It is at “pain” that the problem becomes insurmountable.
We all know what it feels like to have pain or to be in pain. I have some painful health conditions. Many of you do too. Some people who don’t live with daily pain know what a headache is, or how a broken arm feels, and we of a certain age (this age is when ever it happens, as I know a beautiful six-year-old who has had her heart-broken too many times; good thing she’s a little tougher than I am on matters of the heart) know the pain of a broken heart. Yet, pain can’t really exist.
Every reader just puckered up a little bit. Some of you because you understand what I mean. Some of you may have found beauty in the statement and went all poetics on me. While others, in stark, agonizing reality, shook their heads at the pain they are experiencing as they read. What I mean is that pain isn’t a thing. Sure the perception of pain exists, but, and I’ll quote Dennett here “the ‘concept horse’ is not a horse,” just as the perception of pain isn’t some thing we can call pain. There aren’t pain particles in the standard model of physics, or as Dr. Rama says, “you can’t have disembodied pain.” In other words we wouldn’t say “it hurts about four feet to the left of my left elbow.” While your left elbow, that is very much a thing, can be separated and then shown to you, without pain if anesthetics were used. That being said, there are people with a brain condition where they don’t feel pain. Constantly injuring themselves, failing to realize they had a third degree burn on the back of their leg.
There aren’t pain waves. It doesn’t exist.
4. Therefore We Are All Lunatics?
Unfortunately, no. We are mostly, even those that don’t seem it, quite sane by human standards (scary stuff). We can express ourselves with the statement, “I am in pain,” without loosing friends the way, say, calling everything a “cow” from here on out would rid of us of a social life forever.
“Can I have some cow for my cow cow. Oh, this is the best cow, and the side cows are gorgeous.”
Feel free to use this in a limited sense, for those you do wish to alienate, although that could be unhealthy too. That’s a whole different topic.
Personally, I use this thought during difficult meditations and when pushing myself during workouts. Pain is a way for my body to communicate to the many “I’s” that occupy me. The “I” that feels the sting of heartache isn’t the same “I” that is thinking about nothing but surviving minute 11 on the treadmill, but I have managed to condition both of those guys that pain is a communication tool about how my mind or body is doing at any given moment. I listen. If injury or trauma is imminent, sometimes, we can do something about it. And hey, that almost feels like control.
This single thought pattern opened the door to longer meditative practices. When the spot between your shoulder blades is burning, your ankle, it seems, is audibly screaming with discomfort, and both legs are asleep I can respond by noticing the discomforts, breathing through them, and telling myself, I can stay like this forever, pain and love are the same. The mantra will often turn off the pain, and my mind will try to convert that concept pain to the concept love. It doesn’t hurt any less, but it opens up another method of self-love. “Perceptual economics,” is what I call this type of behavior. It works for me, and I have a hunch it will work for millions of you. Prost!