Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.
It has no future but itself;
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.
Emily Dickinson, On Pain, 1830-1886 1
Once, I heard it said, “Life is misery and hurt”; but if this is so, the question immediately appears “Why?”
Is hurt an inevitable consequence of life? Why must this “hurt” touch every life? Is it the inevitability of imperfection? Or is it avoidable, if not absolutely, then perhaps in the majority of cases?
Unfortunately man has come to think of hurt as inevitable, and in thinking of it in this way, has already surrendered to its hopeless state of affairs. Hopelessness and inevitability are not the same. Even if man can never completely avoid “hurt” he may be able to live with it; or even find a way to minimize it. Indeed we live with the inevitable in many things, yet we find ways to make them tolerable. Hurt is one of these.
Where does “hurt” come from? One man’s hurt may not be another’s, and visa versa. Is hurt objective or subjective?
If a house falls on you, the hurt you feel is objective in that it has arisen from the physical “outside of yourself” event of a poor foundation, and its resultant effect. But the resultant damage done to your body, if not fatal, is purely subjective, and this is what you call hurt (this essay will distinguish between the purely “physical” hurt, pain, if you will, and mental hurt, which is a feeling that comes about through not only the former, pain, but also by purely mental events; this resultant mental “hurt” is our subject). But the further “hurt” you feel (subjectively) may also arise from the losses you incur from the effects of this preceding objective hurt, namely, the time you are unemployed, or kept from doing important things in your life as a result of all of this. So we see hurt can be objective, subjective, or a combination of both. Also we see that it can be the beginning or “cause” of a resultant causal chain, which may entail the precipitation of further “hurts”, like a chain reaction. So we see that hurt may also have the property of “infectiousness”, similar to a disease, in that it spreads both objectively, through its consequences, and subjectively, through its subjective destruction of motivation and the inception of a type of mental sluggishness that hinders us in achieving a “useful” life.
So in this musing we see a sort of a light shining out of this tunnel of “hurt”. We see that the objectiveness of hurt may indeed be inevitable as a consequence of mortality, and the arbitrariness of fate it entails; but we also see that the subjective aspect of hurt is fully under our control, in that we can compensate for it through the attitude we assume when it occurs.
In many ways our attitude to hurt is a learned response; something that is a part of our clan, family, social environment and culture. But even that part of hurt that is objective and thereby inevitable is something we can indeed control to a great extent, even if we cannot fully avoid or offset it. This control is in the response that society gives to the objective hurt of its members (objective hurt amelioration would be, for example, help in offsetting the physical causes of further hurt; i.e.: working at home to help people get back to work faster in the above mentioned scenario). Or even better would be the response that neighbors give to the hurt of their fellow neighbors. But this response is not only objective, but also subjective. Society can also have a profound effect in alleviating the subjective aspects of hurt. This is accomplished through the ability of neighbors showing “moral support” through concern for their fellows. The ability of the human to “empathize” with the hurt of others allows this through the capability of humans to symbolize their feelings, and therefore communicate them to others. Here we see why the trust and love that the GOOD allows to join all members of mankind together is so important in man’s societies. It allows mankind to find that very “moral support” that man needs when the individual experiences hurt.
And in this we see the very detrimental effects that an economy that emphasizes the exact opposite to this is perpetrating and spreading. If man sees his neighbors no longer as friends and associates, but as competitors and hostile threatening elements to his very survival, then he feels himself isolated and bereft of any aid in the occurrence of hurt which life presents to him and his family. Even worse, the family, which is to a large extent his only aid in times of hurt, is becoming more and more separated and fragmented because of financial and material stresses the economy presents. The results are the feelings of hopelessness that are the effect of the inevitable state of constant hurt, which society is presently projecting through the unpredictable and wild fluctuations of the economy. Lack of trust, despair, isolation and constant unremitting hurt without redress are the resultant state for the economic losers; while the winners, basking in prosperity, see themselves a “race apart”, with little or no concern for the failures that surround them, other than a threat through crime, which their wealth can protect them from through isolation and security measures. Despair and separation are propagated in both segments of society; and the paradoxical result, or delusion, which further bolsters this inimical economy is the growth of all the industries that foretell its ultimate destruction: police, security industries, prisons, welfare agencies, law enforcement and litigation, and the credit industry. Indeed the very thing which this economy touts as its basic advantage and freest asset, private property, is becoming an unattainable chimera, that is really only the illusion for the reality of mortgages, leases, planned obsolescence and taxes – as the necessities of life – homes and cars – become something that are never really ever owned at all, but merely “borrowed” for the life of the individual.
As the police state looms ever closer in the “land of the free”; and the perpetration of hurt through the vindictive actions of “little people” given the unlimited power of arbitrary vindictiveness by contracting out this power, as we have seen in the TSA and civilian and media policing actions (vigilantism), the potential for hurt becomes ever more real and more severe in extent.
The effects of a citizenry ever further divided amongst itself show us only the inevitable effects which this same economic system has throughout history perpetrated: hurt. And the continual delusion of foisting all the troubles on government, when the real problem, economics, is and will always be the core difficulty, show us the only true means of controlling hurt: social harmony, the same which is consistent with the tenants laid down by Philosophy and Religion through all the ages of past history, and the same as are shown to be the real basic tenants of all society: cooperation and fairness.
If man is to come to grips with the hurt he has forever lived with, and has indeed come to think of as inevitable, then he must begin to see that he must face the solution only through a strong and cooperative, united society. A society that has for once and for all time, put behind it, the separations and hurt engendered by greed. He must ensure that there are no losers in his societies, and thereby create a society that is the support and strength of every individual and his basic rights. A truly free society is one where freedom is not license, and the basic unit of society, the family, can once again thrive in an inevitable love and trust, nurtured in security, instead of an inevitable hurt, nurtured in division and material passion.
But in all of this I have not really mentioned where religion fits in. In times of hurt where else can man go for solace in a society where greed and competition have separated him from his neighbors; where else but to religion. And this is a crucial aspect of religion, in uniting all in society together. Religion is at the same time the most private and personal of man’s concerns, but also the most important in the social realm, as the moral glue to hold his society together. But how can it function as such when the religions, even those of the same origin, stand irreparably divided from one another through the tangled doctrines they espouse? Man finds the harmony between the reality of the mortal world, and the intuition that calls him to the spiritual in faith, in religion. All religions solace and comfort in reconciling man with himself; in building that bridge between his dual realities: the feelings and the spiritual; and the realities of matter and daily life. So the importance of religion is not in its differences of doctrine or manners, but the unity it presents to everyman in a spiritual outlook, which is universal and healing in scope. Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, or Jesus Christ, they are all the healers of man, and his spiritual unity; a rose be a rose by any name, call it what you may, let its effects determine its potency, not the name. When man hurts he looks to it for the unity and comfort his societies presently fail to offer, must he also find disharmony and lack of unity even here? All men hurt; and all religions promise a refuge from hurt through faith, and through unity with all others.
Finally in all this musing I see hurt as the universal cry of man for understanding and compassion in a world that ignores or marginalizes his existence; it is a cry for the universal sameness that knows no separation; indeed, it is man’s original impulse toward society, whereby the united outlook and united strength in facing hurt, created the society and all its appurtenances. Greed is the enemy to all of this, and the delusion that separates and marginalizes all mankind to this very day. When man learns to control his greed he will finally learn to handle his hurt, and all the causes of hurt that have continually plagued him throughout history.
As in Ms. Dickinson’s poem above on pain, hurt is likewise blank – but we can contemplate both its beginning – and at least hopefully its end.
1 Quoted from The Practical Cogitator, Charles P. Curtis, Jr., Ferris Greenslet, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1945.
Originally Published:April 6, 2008
Revised:June 29, 2014