14 October 2012

I'd Rather Feel Pain Pt. 1

than Nothing at All...

Earlier this summer, I finally got around to reading the Fault in  our Stars, by John Green. I liked it, so I read it again, and then for a third time. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, Great Literature; it is, however, a very decent book that resonates with a lot of teen-aged readers in a way entirely separate from Twilight. It is also a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Why? Because it made me think for a long time after reading it.

Anywhoo, the following is a series of reflections on a single quote from the book.

"It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you."

Theory: Pain makes one human.

I don't mean that pain or suffering, when compared to joy, makes the happiness seem better, brighter or sweeter. I don't mean that pain is just karma expressing itself to let us know how lucky we are to have good times. No, I mean that pain, by itself, separated from all other corollary experiences, is necessary to be truly human.

And this is no ordinary, purely physical, I-just-impaled-my-foot-on-a-hook sort of pain, but ability to experience anguish, heart break, and despair. No animal experiences heart ache on the same level that humans do. True, we've all seen the Animal Planet documentaries where elephants stand over the bodies of their dead herd mates for days. These displays, when accompanied by the dispassionate voice of the omniscient narrators, seem to be the same as the pain a mother feels when her son dies, or the pain of an elderly man after his wife of sixty years passes on, or the pain of a teenager's first love moving on.

No animal can nurse heartbreak the way a human can. If you're burned by a friend once, the way you interact with all people thereafter will inevitably change. If your husband (or wife) of decades dies, you cannot simply go back to the way life was before you met the best friend you had for the majority of your life. To be human is to change, to morph, to adapt, to grow around foreign objects in our hearts, to form scar tissue, and to heal into a new person.

Now, a lot of my friends are obsessed with "truly living life" - a worthy goal, but perhaps a little one-sided in its practice. Yes, a full life should include adventuring with friends and perhaps a little kissing in the rain; climbing trees and storm drains; living victoriously at Mach 4. But I submit that life that was really lived also includes hard crashes; broken hearts; unrequited love; death of dreams; loss of companions.

If pain is a defining characteristic of humanity (and I firmly believe it is) then we should revel in the hurt as well as the victory. The people we allow to hurt us have been given a trust - their actions will shape who we become, not just who we are at a certain moment in time.

We should revel in heartache, because a broken heart is just a symptom of our ability to love.

Ahhh, humans. You're so fascinating!

If you got through that long ramble, I lift my hat to you. I'm not entirely sure I understand everything I'm trying to say.


  1. Last sentence guaranteed, no returns or refunds.

    One of those extremely difficult issues to address logically: The emotional feelings we endure and what their purpose or function truly is.

    Do we mean, in truth, to dance and drink in festive celebration of an eternal loss?

    I do think of heartache that way: As an eternal loss, not because we may not meet the person again; but something seems forever lost while in the midst of the pain. There are times when a future re-untiting is so much better than the original unity, but there is still something forever lost. And in that there is pain. And that pain is easy to revel in with the one who seemed to us lost.

    Any ways, I babble. Oh, the run on sentences! Going fast! Get them while they last!

  2. Oh very funny, Ms. Whimsy.... :P

    I was just writing something on this very subject...but it wasn't coming out right at all, and now you just said it better, so I don't have to bother. Oh, so glad some people can say things...