DAY 356: PAIN IS YOUR FRIEND. GO HIT YOURSELF WITH A HAMMER
Growing up in a well-off white family in London has meant that I’ve led a fairly pain-free life.
I’ve benefited from other people dying in wars to protect my right to watch TV in peace, from early pioneers that crashed planes so that I might fly to France on holiday and from bold medical advances that helped retrieve the candle I pushed up my nose as a child.
Someone else picked up the poisonous mushroom and tasted it so I wouldn’t have to.
In the next blog I’m going to tell you about going undercover into a slaughterhouse. Sometimes it’s important to reconnect with pain. And yet at the same time I can’t think of anything more horrific. There will be no photos and the experience may surprise you.
I don’t have a lot of pains in my life. Telling a joke at a dinner party that no-one finds funny, perhaps. Stubbing my toe on my eco fridge/freezer. Oh, and being fairly close to suicide after suffering bouts of vile depression. I almost forgot that one.
Sometimes I wonder if the latter and the former are related.
Perhaps the deep grinding pain inside is related to a lack of feeling on the surface. We get depressed when we close off from pains that otherwise might ….make us live more openly.
Most of us are desperate to avoid pain. Understandable.
And yet pain teaches us that when we are holding a kitchen knife there is a point where the carrot stops and our finger starts. And those people that suffer the surreal illness of not being able to feel pain, far from living in a blissful dream, can die from eating their own tongues or consuming salads made of ladies fingers (and I don’t mean ochra).
The mass cruelty we are inflicting on animals is largely possible, because, like those that suffer from not being able to suffer, we have become anesthetized to the horror. The anaesthetic in question is a potent mix of marketing, ignorance, distance and really cute photos of cows in green fields. And as we become more liberal – nay, compassionate even – the anaesthetic has to be become more powerful still to prevent a connection occurring between human (i.e consumer) and animal (i.e consumed).
Imagine showing a caring liberal mother what is REALLY in the meat she feeds her child. Imagine them serving an eye ball or a penis…or a full tongue.
We are a society that is eating it’s own tongue. We are killing so many animals I find it hard to believe it can’t leave some scars on our own flesh that one day we MUST feel.
But pain not only teaches us how to look after ourselves – where the carrot stops and our fingers start – but also how to look after others. When we feel pain we have a chance to connect to other’s that have felt the same – or worse.
I’m far more compassionate to those that suffer depression from having stuck my toe (or whole being) in that acidic water. This doesn’t mean that to understand the suffering of pigs in gestation crates we have to place ourselves in a small cage and crap on the floor but it DOES mean that we should pay attention to the small pains in our life and use them as a springboard to action for those that might feel far greater pains.
The other day I sat in the dentist’s chair and felt the long needle go through my palette . Once it was some way inside me he wiggled the needle a little as if to find a softer patch and then pushed in deeper. For the next 30 minutes he shook my head from side to side trying to get out a wisdom tooth that was so ingrown that his steely pliers were useless. Although I was numb I still felt my mouth being stretched back, my head getting knocked, and the pull of his metal tools. I spent this time trying to think about the pain of the animals that have it so much worse than me and a curious thing happened – my pain all but went away.
THAT’S BECAUSE YOU WERE ANAESTHETISED MARTIN!
Yes, but no. I would have been unconscious if I wasn’t. But something curious was going on.
Experiencing pain can be a chance to connect. I think that we should pay closer attention to our own pain. And I certainly think we should be more aware of it in animals. I don’t mean to say you should hit yourself with a hammer but perhaps next time you feel pain use it as a means to get closer to the suffering of those that can’t avoid it so easily.
Going into a slaughter house, is for me, a little like concentrating on the needle as it pushes into my skin. In a curious way, I need to feel it. And yet at the same time, the more I see of this horror the more I feel a darkness welling up inside me as if my own depression is threatening to rise up again.
But for now I want to go into the suffering a little deeper.