“I hurt myself today to see if I still feel…
I focus on the pain …the only thing that’s real”
Think about it …think about the things that cause us pain today and the things that cause us to fear and compare those fears to the fears that our ancestors had and their ancestors before them etc. Today we fear losing our job, we worry about having enough money to buy that new plasma screen or that new car etc. Our fears about our jobs or our finances or our social status are fears about things that aren’t real. If we lose our jobs …life still goes on, the sun still rises the next day and we are still breathing air. It didn’t used to be that way. We used to fear being eaten by lions and tigers … those were real fears. If you get attacked and chewed on by a wild animal ..you have a problem. Comparatively speaking we aren’t in REAL danger anymore…sure you can get hit by a truck or come down with the brain eating amoeba or get cancer or even get shot (in Chicago) or be the victim of a home invasion burglary and get raped. Cave people would get a scratch and if it got infected they died. If they twisted their ankle so they couldn’t run as fast as they needed to they died…drank bad water …and died, you get the picture.
Our bodies are hard wired to fear pain so to compensate for the lack of opportunities to experience pain we have promoted those things we find moderately unpleasant to ‘pain’ status. We used to make decisions based upon the fear of being ripped to shreds by wild animals or opposing armies and not we are guided by things like the fear of pain of failure. We say things like “the stress is killing me’ or “I am working myself to death”
That’s not pain …that’s not real suffering … that ain’t country! That’s not peril to life and limb we evolved to avoid. We’re not the fragile beings we’ve been trained to think we are, we’re not as weak of body of mind as we’ve hypnotized ourselves into thinking. The only way to truly learn that… and to open the entire spectrum of human experience we’ve buried beneath the shiny veneer of modern existence is to meet our own personal limitations and boundaries head on. It’s ironic…but letting yourself experience what you most don’t want to experience is the only way to truly be human.
Think about how we live today , we live in television and on the Internet. Sometimes our friends are people we only see once or twice a year and we might have physical contact with only half a dozen times. We go from place to place very quickly without having to wear down our shoes, or the soles of our feet, thanks to fast cars, fast trains and fast planes. We spent a lot of time accomplishing very little. The work of a human life might be the movement of one set of papers or one group of numbers from one location to another. We have kids, but then we go to work and they go to school. Often our lives cross only briefly like ships in the night. Were shaped by fashion and consumerism. Instead of chasing food we chase ipads, iphones and i yi yi yi yi. We check our email and social networks compulsively. Are we lonely? Or are we just looking for some urgency that we can pretend matters, a surrogate for the survival requirements we used to spend our lives pursuing, but which are now handed to us.
We have fast food, we have video games so real you can step into them. We have reality TV that isn’t very realistic, so that we can vicariously live the lives of jersey kids and celebrities. And even though we may never visit Australia if we live in New York, you can video chat with Australia live, for free, whenever we want. Old-fashioned, unfiltered reality worked for a while, but it was untidy. It was really time-consuming. It had some great positives, but it also came with some shady negatives. Moveover reality. Now there’s reality 2.0
The Good Old Days
Used to be, things were different, used to be, we had to be strong, fast, and smart to survive. That was how evolution proceeded, those with an advantage leading up to reproductive age passed on their genes, so humans got stronger and faster and smarter. Then we started getting so smart that our bodies didn’t have to evolve quite as quickly to keep up.
We stopped needing to be strong when machines were invented. We stopped needing to be fast when chariots, buggies, bicycles, and cars were built. We no longer had to hunt for food. Others created food in such surplus that certain populations would never want for it. We even manufactured cheap super foods that were so calorically dense, the poorest among us ended up being the fattest.
Even battling our enemies can be done largely with the push of a button. We found a cure for pain, a cure for sleeplessnes, a cure for emotional upset. Some cures were medical and some more behavioral. A cigarette could cure nervousness. A trip to the mall could cure sadness. Eating could cure fear. Drinking could cure everything.
That’s all fine and dandy until you realize that we’re hardwired to experience all of those so-called negative things. A lot of people today, like to ride roller coasters. As time goes on roller coasters get bigger and faster. The logical explanation for this is that progress must march on, and the bigger and faster roller coaster is the next logical step. But I think it’s because as our lives become less and less genuine, we require bigger and bigger thrills to scare us, for just a moment, into feeling human again. Horror films get more and more frightening for the same reason. Those stop motion sequences of Japanese kids in movies like ‘The Ring’? Holy fuck! I don’t need an iPad anymore; all that matters is that you keep those things away from me. Or the breeding of intensely grotesque movies that started with the likes of ‘Hostel’ and ‘Saw’, nothing supernatural about those at all, just stuff that could actually happen via ordinary, everyday evil. Those movies were huge hits because more you can feel yourself as being there, being in it, the more you realize, for just a little while, that what your neighbor thinks of your car is irrelevant.
After all, this is the society that embraced, ‘Fight Club’. This is a society that spawned real-life fight clubs. We all go about it in different ways and succeed to different degrees, but every one of us has a part inside us that wants to feel discomfort, because it’s visceral. It’s human.
Remember when agent Smith said in the matrix?
“Did you know that the first matrix was designed to be a perfect human world, were none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster. No one would accept the program; entire crops were lost. Some believed that we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world, but I believe that is the species, human beings define their reality through misery and suffering. That perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum’s kept trying to wake up from.”
We’ll never create a utopia, because it’s impossible to define good, without having bad to compare it to. There is no pleasure without pain. There is no Heaven without hell.
The more we try to eliminate the negatives in life, the more we consequently eliminate the positives.
Modern society has tried very hard keep us safe and secure, to keep us in the soft and protected center of our experience spectrum, and away from the perilous edges. The problem is that the edges are where all the really good stuff is.
The way to expand our joy is by expanding our capacity for discomfort and failure.
We spend all of our time trying to insulate ourselves from negative sensations and emotions, and we end up stunted on both ends. If the experience of modern life feels dampened and muted to you, you’re not alone. Were seeing the world through a protective wrapping. The reason people seek out extremes is so that they can, for once, truly experience something that they know is unblunted and real. Whatever level of discomfort you reach, you reach deliberately. You’ve met the negative head-on, on your own terms. You own it, and you’ll own it forever. We seek out edges so that we can reconnect with who we really are.
We are not averages and statistics.
We are not the upper middle or lower class.
We are not citizens, or constituents, or the governed.
We are not Megaplex Christmas shoppers.
Every day now, I wonder if I’m spending enough time with my family. If I’m having enough fun. If I’m enjoying my work, and if I’m making a difference. I feel like a man who’s been given a death sentence. I’m not kidding. When someone asks me to spend an hour doing something stupid…I resent it.. That’s an hour I won’t get back. What are you doing with the time you have?
Are you one of life’s participants or one of the spectators?
Are you watching life through a protective bubble? Are you afraid to leave that bubble, to feel the true pain of effort of exertion of something that you never dared to try before? And as you succumb to your fear of the unreal, do you have to settle for experiencing fake joy, fake excitement, fake victory, food stamps, WIC, and TANF $$?
Life isn’t meant to be lived through a filter. When you walk into pain and discomfort willingly, and you feel it, unblunted, you know you’re beyond the filter. You know you’re finally experiencing the real. I don’t know about you, but if I only have so many years here, since were all born with a terminal disease. After all, then I want to experience the real
Don’t be stupid, but test your boundaries. Do what bothers you. Do some things that hurt. Let yourself be afraid, and uncomfortable, and at your limit. If you’re scared of something, diving to the next time you experience that fear and revel in it, sampling is like a rare delicacy. Look at everything you’ve been trying not to feel and say, “let’s try this on for size”. I don’t know about you but I want to see what’s out there in the world. And within limits, within reason, I don’t care if it hurts.
This is a paraphrasing and sometimes a verbatim copying of an article by the same name written by Johnny B. Truant the author of “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying Fuck About You”. It brings some important issues we are about ready to face into focus…prepare to embrace the pain and feel the real!