It snowed yesterday. But you’d only know it from the white pockets of shade. It’s been an odd year of light seasons. An uneasy mediocrity in the elements — like something is bound to blow through at any moment.
We ran a quick-ish 4K this morning without Leonard. Nice to find a rhythm, but my body felt heavy. It could be because of vacation – a post-breakfast run instead of the usual fasting run. It could also be the sore muscles around my knees and ankles from the half-marathon terrain run last weekend.
I finally got around to reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. He argues the probably of plants having the ability to learn. And because of the way of the world, the possibility of plants then experiencing pain.
It seems to be, in an informal way, that people have often measured the quality life by the experience of pain? In the 1800s, the people in charge of the asylums remarked to Dorothea Dix that the insane were just fine naked in the cellar all winter, since the insane don’t experience cold or pain.
And how often has pain been one of the “senses” some people will deny in other people(s). Historically. Even today.
And on an interpersonal level we justify our callousness continually. “They” aren’t really hurting.
It is interesting to remember that a callous grows to shield us from pain. As a shield. A distancing. The opposite of empathizing, of “feeling with”.
To deny someone’s experience of pain is to deny their humanity. But more than that – to deny something the possibility of experiencing pain it is to deny the possibility of sentience.
Maybe our concept of an anthropomorphic fallacy is all backwards.
It’s not a new thought, at any rate: that it is a mistake to assume we are special. Even in our pain.
Leonard is curled on the floor beside my desk now. It is much more comfortable on the sofa in the other room, but here he is. I think he missed me.
I remember reading a book when I was younger. A character remarked on how much they longed to wake up in a pain-free body. Only now am I able to understand that. But now also finding it difficult to remember a sense of not having some kind of pain.
I remember growing pains. In my chest. Groin sometimes. Knees. “Growing pains”, my mother said. I said the same to my sons when they had them.
The sudden, unexpected pain of being alive.
In The Hidden Life of Trees, the author talks about how a woodpecker makes a wound in the bark of a tree, and then leaves to let fungus soften things before returning. The fungus keeps at it, even after the cavity is too large to serve the woodpecker. So another creature moves into the expanding space. Then another. And all the while, is the tree feeling this as pain? Like my reality of a tender hamstring and an arthritic toe joint?
I had a nightmare last night. I have them only rarely now. And not nearly as vividly as once. Though sometimes it takes me longer to reorient to the real world as I wake —
like turning over scattered puzzle pieces and fitting them together into a somewhat less frightening order.
It seems that, as I age, there is a shifting of the kind of pain I experience.
The cold hurts my bones more than it used to. But heartbreak hurts far less. I can only hope the latter is a matter of it having already been cracked open once, and having adjusted to the openness, each new love moving into a growing spaciousness.
Can anyone recommend a good book on pain?