The Enduring Value of Pain: Isaac Anderson on Rebecca Solnit’s New Book

The Enduring Value of Pain: Isaac Anderson on Rebecca Solnit’s New Book June 26, 2013

My friend Isaac Anderson has written an impressive book review for Los Angeles Review of Books on the Rebecca Solnit’s new book. That she deals so heavily with pain is happily coincidental for me, given that I preached on pain last week on the subject of Pain. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, it’s importance for us all, and how to engage pain in healthy, transformational ways. Here’s an excerpt from Isaac’s review:

Quoting Solnit” [W]e are a society that values the anesthetic over pain. We hide our prisons, our sick, our mad, and our poor; we expend colossal resources to live in padded, temperature-controlled environments that make few demands on our bodies or our minds. We come up with elaborate means of not knowing about the suffering of others and of blaming them when we do.”

This distancing comes with a cost. “Choosing not to feel pain is choosing a sort of death, a withering away of the expansive self.” Solnit is making a connection between our own disinclinations to identify with others’ hardships and the condition known as peripheral neuropathy, the lack of sensation that causes those afflicted with leprosy to lose fingers, toes, feet. Apathy is a separating sickness of a different kind, she suggests, one that constricts and dehumanizes our social contracts in similar fashion. Empathy enlarges, on the other hand, through “an act of imagination, of extending yourself beyond yourself, of feeling what you do not feel innately by invoking it.”

I will try and put up a sermon synopsis tomorrow. If you are interested, for now you can listen to what I did with the topic of pain here.

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  • Enjoyed the sermon–including the shout-out to Nietzsche!

    “Alas, I knew noble men who lost their highest hope. Then they slandered all high hopes. Then they lived impudently in brief pleasures and barely cast their goals beyond the day. Spirit too is lust, so they said. Then the wings of their spirit broke: and now their spirit crawls about and soils what it gnaws. Once they thought of becoming heroes: now they are voluptuaries. The hero is for them an offense and a fright.

    But by my love and hope I beseech you: do not throwaway the hero in your soul! Hold holy your highest hope!” ~ Thus spoke Zarathustra.