An Abbreviated History of Pain

After centuries, we still don't
understand pain. The Greeks imagined it 

almost as a kind of spirit, looking to gain
entrance into the body through any wound.  

In the bible, there are more than 70
mentions of the word pain or suffering.
The pain of childbirth, the grief after loved 
ones die, the pain of lepers and others afflicted 

with disease; boils, thorns, nails, and crosses— 
All are meant to illustrate that what comes after 

pain is the more important experience. Scripture
boils down to just one message: wait for it.

As for theories of natural selection, organisms 
that display a nimble ability to survive 

often do so at the expense of others. The human hand 
evolved to grasp a rock or fashion a metal spear. 

The heads of toppled strongmen or dictators 
were swiftly severed by guillotine; naturally,

they died before they could describe how that 
might have felt. Phantom pain rouses an amputee

in the middle of the night, so he'll clutch
a leg fashioned of air and blankets. Shooting 

and stabbing pains send electric nerve signals 
from the brain to the face and mouth. Neurosurgeons

probe this pain that doesn't seem to further the body's 
instincts for self-preservation: microvascular decompression,

stereotactic radiation. But it comes and goes at will, 
like a capricious god or spirit reminding you of 

a proverb about how the hurt in the littlest 
finger becomes agony for the whole body.  


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