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Pain and mercy


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#1    markdohle

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 12:12 PM

Pain and mercy



I often wonder why it is so easy to write about pain, sorrow, struggle, and strife.  I know that there is much of the above in the world, and I would suppose most of us, if perhaps not all, are often part of this drama, that makes up the pain of the world.  Its weight is heavy, burdensome, to the point were death is longed for by those who get the brunt of its crushing power.  No one is free from this; even the so called rich, the carefree, have an inner burden that they also must carry, it is just hidden.

We take joy, and happiness, for granted when it is experienced.  It almost seems our natural state, something we are made for.  While suffering seems an intrusion, something foreign, a state we seek to escape; though it is not possible.  Run from one form of suffering, and often the fruits we receive are double, or triple the pain, that must be endured.  Addictions come to mind.  We use them to find relief, but in the end, they only weigh those addicts down, even more deeply into pain, and the chaos, that often flows from this sort of thing.  I am speaking from experience.  Addictions don’t have to be the big ones; small addictions can also do a great deal of damage.

It seems to me, that most of the pain in the world is either self inflicted, or inflicted on others, by another human being.   The sufferings from war are many; all one has to do is to turn on CNN, or Fox news, to get a front row seat on this drama that never seems to end.  As a species, we seem to be in the grip of some irrational force that propels us towards chaos, pain, and war.  Even in our private lives, this process is often at work, despite our best efforts to escape it.

In my own soul I experience this. Hence, the conflicts that I often find myself in when seeking to live according to the dictates of my conscience, and the inner struggle it seems to generate.   The love/hate conflict seems to be the crux of the problem, though I guess this is simplistic; the will to power also comes to mind. People often get sentimental when speaking of love, gushing on about the love of neighbor, peace, and the like.  However in reality most of the world’s religions do not tell us to “treat others as we would like to be treated”, or as Jesus said “to love your neighbor as yourself”, because it is easy, or a natural thing to do.  Sometimes, I think gritting ones teeth helps in the very real struggle to love others, or perhaps counting to 10, or a 100 that is often needed in my case. It is a choice, love.   True some loves are based on need, and instinct.  We love our friends, but the love spoken of by Jesus, and also by the prophets of other religions, is based on a clear headed choice, or perhaps in the end, a habit, strengthened by grace.  No matter it is often a struggle.  It is easy to hate, to scapegoat, to condemn; it is a well worn path. All one has to do is get in, sit down, and allow this archetypical pattern to run its course.  Sort of like being on a roller-coaster, except in the end it crashes, instead of stopping, to let the riders off.

The scale, with the pain of the world piled high, stands in the middle of a field.  We each go up to it, and we either add to the weight, or lessen it, or perhaps many of us do a bit of both.  It is so easy to hate, to scapegoat, to kill, rape, and maim.   It is like a flood of emotions, which rushes up from the depths, seeking someone to take all of this pain out on.   Someone, other, less than human; from another race, religion, tribe, sex, or perhaps simply from another political party; it does not matter.  This of course does not work, and so the grinding of teeth continues, the pain increases, until death comes to release us one by one.

Christians call this ‘sin’, something real that can drive us mad. Until we find some solution that will stop this cycle of chaos, and pain, which the world seems caught up in; with no way to exit.  Our main struggle is within, if not dealt with then it is brought out and fought in the world, others becoming the target, or again the scapegoat. Governments are good at this, the enemy without must be dealt with, and the ensuing destruction is the others fault.   I suppose this is a role we all play, each playing our role, no matter how seemingly minor.   Sometimes were the fly, and at others the windshield; as the saying goes.

It is mercy that heals this wound.  First received, and then in gratefulness, shared with others.  Mercy is not mercy if it is deserved; no, mercy is something offered to those who do not deserve it. It is offered in love to all, hence the Christian hope for the salvation of all men.   To say I understand this is false, for God’s actions in the world are a deep and abiding mystery.  I get confused by life just like most others, but my faith does give some light, in this journey we call life.

Yes life is a rough road, and we all travel it together.  It is only on the personnel level that things can change.  By the time it matures to the level of national conflict, I don’t think much can be done until the energy is fought out, or dissipated, the dead are buried, the orphans taken care of, cities rebuilt, and at least if the lesson is not learned, life can resume for awhile, till next time.  The problem is that we get better at killing, our weapons more sophisticated, and our propaganda believed.  In any case this will not stop until we learn as a species, and I feel that grace is needed for this to happen.  I know the limitations of my heart.  From my own experiences it is only when I allow myself to be channel of God’s love, do I just begin to do better.  The emphasis is on the “just begin”.  I have never moved much beyond that.  

Sin is whatever destroys or lessens us.  It is what enslaves us with the myriad addictions that mankind is subject to.   I think the doctrine “Original Sin” makes a lot of sense.  It is simply what we inherit from those who have gone before, a cycle of war, and pain, that we cannot seem to quit ourselves of.  If you want to know what hell is like, well just read the papers.  A world in which no responsibility is taken, but blame is sought in others, and then human retribution follows.  An endless hellish cycle of tit for tat, that will never end, unless we grow in understanding of what really drives us, compels us to stay on this wheel of pain that seems to circle eternally, with mankind nailed to its spokes.

Yet I am hopeful.


#2    Frank Merton

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 12:56 PM

Pain is entirely in our heads.  It is just a sensation, a "qualia" like "blue" or "E-flat" or "chilly."  Nothing more than one of the ways nature has evolved to tell us what is going on around and in us and to motivate us to act on it.  Even the fear or anger or whatever you experience when you are in pain are only more sensations, again entirely in our heads.  None of it has any reality outside our minds.


#3    markdohle

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 02:35 PM

View PostFrank Merton, on 06 April 2013 - 12:56 PM, said:

Pain is entirely in our heads.  It is just a sensation, a "qualia" like "blue" or "E-flat" or "chilly."  Nothing more than one of the ways nature has evolved to tell us what is going on around and in us and to motivate us to act on it.  Even the fear or anger or whatever you experience when you are in pain are only more sensations, again entirely in our heads.  None of it has any reality outside our minds.

What you are saying makes no sense.  You are saying that others in your life, your relationships etc., aren't real?  Good luck with that ;-).

Peace
mark


#4    Frank Merton

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 02:40 PM

When you stub your toe, you feel pain.  Where do you feel the pain?  In your toe or in your head?  You think its in your toe but it is your head doing the thinking.  Sensations are creations of our minds.  Once we realize they are not real we are on the way to real understanding of the nature of the world we live in.


#5    Beany

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 03:33 PM

Having spent a lot of my childhood in pain, I find that as an adult I know longer have any attraction or fascination with it. For me it was an endless loop that went nowhere, and required a passivity that I no longer possess. We all deal with it, or don't deal with it, in our own unique ways. When it comes up for me now, I consider it a signal from my body/psyche that there's something going on in my life that I need to address, and I need to figure out what that is. So in that way, it's actually a helpful emotion.


#6    Frank Merton

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 03:49 PM

I see that you misstate and call pain an emotion: perhaps on purpose.  Sensations and emotions really are the same things, and you are right that they are helpful.  Pain tells us something is wrong.

The problem is that it is a crude message; very unsubtle and it doesn't stop when there is nothing to do about it.  So we have people dying in pain from cancers no one can do anything about.  Living with that kind of pain is easier but still not easy when we let it wash over us and don't attach fear or sadness or other emotions to it and just say it is a sensation.


#7    Frank Merton

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 03:52 PM

View Postmarkdohle, on 06 April 2013 - 02:35 PM, said:

What you are saying makes no sense.  You are saying that others in your life, your relationships etc., aren't real?  Good luck with that ;-).

Peace
mark
I see looking at the above quote that you confuse illusion with unreality.  Our feelings are all in our head (where else could they be) and this includes amity, love, desires, and so on.  But illusion is not delusion.  Illusions have sources -- things that generate them.The illusion you talk about in your initial message is pain.  That is why I paid attention mainly to it.


#8    highdesert50

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 04:06 PM

That living things must literally consume other living things in order to survive, does capture the essence of the world in which we live. One could conclude the world is therefore "painfully" flawed, and your remark concerning the ease with which "one can write about pain, sorrow, struggle, and strife" to be quite credible as these attributes are the consequence of this worldly venue.

Yet, using Jesus, or comparable icons of other beliefs, does provide us with the opportunity to experience compassionate empathy. This elevates us to an understanding that, despite the brutality that exists, we do have the ability to alter the way we interact with others, that we can adjust our personal system of beliefs and consequently how we deal with life's consequences. In the end, we must simply find the joy along the way and begin to recognize the attributes of a Jesus as potential for the evolved human.


#9    Beany

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 05:16 PM

View PostFrank Merton, on 06 April 2013 - 03:49 PM, said:

I see that you misstate and call pain an emotion: perhaps on purpose.  Sensations and emotions really are the same things, and you are right that they are helpful.  Pain tells us something is wrong.

The problem is that it is a crude message; very unsubtle and it doesn't stop when there is nothing to do about it.  So we have people dying in pain from cancers no one can do anything about.  Living with that kind of pain is easier but still not easy when we let it wash over us and don't attach fear or sadness or other emotions to it and just say it is a sensation.

I should have been more clear. When I say "pain" I don't mean physical pain, I mean those uncomfortable emotions or sensations: despair, regret, grief, disappointment, depression, etc. And High Desert, I love what you said in the second paragraph.


#10    Beany

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 05:30 PM

View PostFrank Merton, on 06 April 2013 - 03:52 PM, said:

I see looking at the above quote that you confuse illusion with unreality.  Our feelings are all in our head (where else could they be) and this includes amity, love, desires, and so on.  But illusion is not delusion.  Illusions have sources -- things that generate them.The illusion you talk about in your initial message is pain.  That is why I paid attention mainly to it.

I think that's brilliantly said, that illusions have sources that generate them. I wouldn't necessarily use the word illusion, because the pain is very real to the one experiencing, whatever the source. Trace the emotion back to the source, the person or trauma that caused it, which usually occurs when we're young, bring to it the knowledge & experience of an adult instead instead of the  child, and we might be able to find new perspectives and understandings that can help us find a cessation of much of the pain. I call them primal laws, what we decided about ourselves & the world when we were children.


#11    manbearpigg

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 12:11 PM

the reason we as a species generate so much conflict with one another and to ourselves can be identified as the same "reason" that separates us from the rest of the flock:

our intellect and our tenacity/greed.

I would argue that derive we our t/g from first attaining intellect.
Some might argue the opposite.
some say that the two are unrelated.

the desire for more than provided and accepting the fact that your desires prioritizes above the well-being of another causes these conflicts among ourselves.
as for how we treat other animals;
It is truly horrifying how we treat our sources of food but the basic concept of devouring another species is fairly common in nature so i see no problems with it. ( but we must seriously find better conditions for the animals we feed on.


#12    Frank Merton

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 12:32 PM

I have a personal problem with eating meat, knowing that mammals, at a minimum, are sensate to the extent that they also have emotions.  Other animals have eyes and ears, so we know they are sensate, but their reactions to the world appear to be entirely instinctive if not simply reflexive.  (In other words they see and hear and experience the world that way, but are without emotions -- what we call feelings).

However, we evolved including meat in our food, and we know some nutrients that are very difficult to get otherwise.  There are almost certainly other nutrients in meats we don't know about.  Still, we also know we should limit meat; only a little is enough.

As a Buddhist I am encouraged to not eat meat, but few Buddhists follow this guidance, except for most monks, and even they will eat it if they are served it as a guest.  Still, I tend to think the Buddhist view evolved before we had modern scientific knowledge of the pleasure/pain and emotional pathways of brains, so they tend in my view to take an overly broad, if cautious, approach.

Compassion for sentient animals -- especially mammals -- is I think important for our own spiritual well-being.  Farm animals need to be protected, kept clean and well-fed, and so on.  Hunted animals need to be killed cleanly and with respect and not wastefully.


#13    redhen

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 03:30 PM

View PostFrank Merton, on 06 April 2013 - 03:49 PM, said:

I see that you misstate and call pain an emotion: perhaps on purpose.  Sensations and emotions really are the same things, and you are right that they are helpful.  Pain tells us something is wrong. a sensation.

Correct, pain is neurological but it is not the same as emotions. Emotions are functional. They are ways that have evolved to display our feelings to others. Humans of course are not unique in this respect. Other species also feel pain and exhibit emotions. This should be self evident as we are naturally evolved naked apes.

Suffering is inherent in nature, thus humans are not immune to it. Suffering is not just pain, it also includes emotions such as sadness and anger. The Buddhist solution sounds simple, the trick is not to be born in the first place. Good luck with that.

In the end one does what one can to alleviate suffering.


#14    Beany

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 04:06 AM

Sadness, anger, grief, despair, loss, I've experienced them all. However, those emotions/sensations don't define me or my life. They're small parts that make up the whole of who I am, so I honor them without giving my life over to them. For myself, I figure to be whole I need to love all parts of myself, even those feelings that are uncomfortable. At times it's been difficult work, loving and accepting the totality of who I am, warts and all. It seems the more I came to love myself, and greater my capacity to enjoy & love life in general. Unlike the Buddhists, I don't believe life is full of pain & suffering, nor do I believe like many Christians, that we were born into sin and must repent. I do believe life is the greatest gift we could receive, and we are here to celebrate it and make the most of it.


#15    CrimsonKing

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 04:35 AM

View PostFrank Merton, on 06 April 2013 - 12:56 PM, said:

Pain is entirely in our heads.  It is just a sensation, a "qualia" like "blue" or "E-flat" or "chilly."  Nothing more than one of the ways nature has evolved to tell us what is going on around and in us and to motivate us to act on it.  Even the fear or anger or whatever you experience when you are in pain are only more sensations, again entirely in our heads.  None of it has any reality outside our minds.

You are 100% correct "Pain is all in our heads" no doubt that is where it is all processed!That is where it is all given a meaning!

I will say as has been said in its own ways already,there are 2 different types of pain,physical and emotional.Though both are still processed and confirmed in the same place the mind.

I can take physical pain like few others,maybe 5% of the whole human population on earth will ever do what i do for a living.Physical pain is not something most care to encounter on a daily basis,this is not a bad thing,this is how we are wired as humans.Getting hit in the face is bad for us lol.

On the other side is emotional pain,i can not take that,i have had far more than my fair share of this in my lifetime.I have become numb to most emotions and i do not feel bad about it,i would not go back if i could.I know the difference between right and wrong and i use that for my balance on emotions,i do not need feelings for that balance.

"If it is not advantageous,do not move.If objectives can not be attained,do not employ the army.Unless endangered do not engage in warfare.The ruler cannot mobilize the army out of personal anger.The general can not engage in battle because of personal frustration.When it is advantageous,move;when not advantageous,stop.Anger can revert to happiness,annoyance can revert to joy,but a vanquished state cannot be revived,the dead cannot be brought back to life." Sun-Tzu




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