It’s Tuesday again, the day after Labor Day. I wrote a surprisingly long post yesterday, considering I didn’t have anything at all in mind when I started. Today, I’m not so sure. I barely feel able to say or do anything at all.
The coworker with whom I share duties at the office is scheduled for surgery today, apparently, and he won’t be back at the office for a while. This means I’m going to be doing extra duty, so to speak, for at least a few more weeks. In a certain sense, that’s fine, because I don’t really mind working hard, and I want him to be okay and everything. It’s not like I have anything better to do with my time. On the other hand, I really just want to be able to “disappear”, if I feel that I have to, without causing too much inconvenience for other people, at least for people I like and/or with whom I work.
This coworker of mine has a new baby, and he (the coworker, not the baby…the baby is a girl) has been working a second job part-time at nights to make extra money, since his wife can’t work right now, being rather immediately post-partum and, of course, having a baby of whom to take care. I had figured that, well, if I’m gone, then he can just take up more duties and a bit more time at the office, and he can make somewhere between his current pay and double his pay, or something like that. Anyway, he would be ripe for a raise, especially since I wouldn’t be getting paid anymore. That would be useful for him and his family, at least. And, after an initial shock, I don’t think anyone at the office would actually miss me much. It’s not as though I’m a pleasant or fun coworker.
But now I’ve got to push back at least some potential plans, and it’s very frustrating. Still, there are 16 days until September 22nd, which is Bilbo’s and Frodo’s birthday, the day that Frodo sold Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses and headed off on his quest to destroy the ring. I’ve thought that would be a good day for momentous events to take place or at least to begin—momentous for me, anyway. I don’t think anything I do will matter to anyone else in the world at all, except perhaps as a cause of a passing “huh,” followed by an oblivious carrying on with normal, day-to-day activities.
I’m tired. I’m really tired. I don’t have any good reasons to keep pushing myself, even though I continue to do it. It’s madness; and though I’ve always been a bit mad, to say the least, I am very tired, and have diminishing motivation. Right now I’m only moving at all because of habit, but maybe it’s a bad habit. I don’t know. I only know that it hurts, physically and otherwise. Everything hurts.
Of course, we can fall back on the quote from The Princess Bride, that “life is pain…anyone who says differently is selling something.” I would quibble with that statement, taken on its face, though that might surprise some people. It isn’t correct to say that life is identical with pain, as the statement seems clearly to imply, particularly with the spoken emphasis on the word “is”.
I would say, rather, that life requires pain. Without a sense of pain, living things would not avoid damage and injury, or death for that matter. All life—even artificial life—that lasts for any considerable time must have some equivalent to a sense of pain, and it must be potent and unpleasant and very difficult to ignore, like a fire alarm. And, like a fire alarm, it should be more prone to false positives than false negatives. You would prefer your alarm to go off when you merely burn the toast than to have it less prone to go off during a real fire.
But there must be a differential. If life was merely a constant, steady state of pain, then there would be no impetus to do anything at all. The pain of hunger must be relieved, at least temporarily, by a good meal, or else no one will bother eating. The pain of exhaustion must be assuaged, at least partly, by sleep, or else no one will find any reason to rest.
That’s the problem with chronic pain, really. Our ancestors evolved the ability to feel pain in circumstances in which it could, for the most part, serve some benefit. But in the modern world, we survive injuries that would have led to immediate or at least relatively short-term death in our ancestors. But our nervous systems can’t be updated in real time to adjust their settings to the fact that, hey, you don’t actually have any debilitating or dangerous thing happening to you right now, so you can stop sounding the stupid alarm. We can feel pain that lasts for years and even decades, and yet it doesn’t directly kill us. That’s to say nothing of psychological pain, which also can last for a long, long time, and at times can feel eternal.
The whole system is not in equilibrium, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that it’s very maladapted in many ways. It may never reach a long-term equilibrium again. If technology and science keep advancing, if humans expand beyond this planet and from there spread out further, the state of life will be in constant flux, and it will never be able to reach a stable point at which things settle out, at least not for a long while. Maybe that’s good; it depends on your criteria, I suppose.
But it means there’s no present, reliable, durable solution to pain-without-purpose, both physical and psychological. If anything, it just keeps going and often growing. I am stubborn, and I have a strong endurance, whatever that means, but it is finite. Even mountains can be worn down in the end. And I am no mountain. Not even a mountain of doom.