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pain - vulnerability

Posted by james on Nov. 14, 2002

<a href="../music/playlist-pedro-helicopter.m3u">Helicopters</a>

This song is about vulnerability.

This has been a theme lately. It's hard to be vulnerable; it seems to go against how the world works. But the root of our unease with vulnerability runs deep. The roots of our insecurities are based on pain, the ultimate teacher. Pain is the original negative feedback that teaches us what is bad for us, what will harm and eventually kill us. We do not ignore pain; we learn from it and respond drastically. This is true emotionally as well as physically. Vulnerability is hard because by the time we're half grown-up, we've already experienced enough pain to convince us that risk is not a good thing; pain hurts, it kills, it maims. But being the resilient mammals we are, we adapt. Just as our skin forms calluses to protect against damage, and our muscles strengthen to handle the load, so our hearts thicken and form barriers.

There's all sorts, so many to choose from; isolation, self-deprivation, bitterness, denial. It's better to keep people at arm's distance, where they can't easily reach out and strike at our heart. Yet this flies in the face of another desire built into our very being; we need intimacy. We need to be known and need to be loved. A problem arrises when the two do not coincide; when we are not known, or not loved, or even not loved for who we are. Most of the time I'd say we are not known, and half of the time we are convinced that we are not loved. Simply believing in things like love and hope makes us vulnerable, so we cannot even believe any of these if we are to remain safe. Yet that desire to be loved remains, despite what we do to starve it and kill it off. This dilemma creates a void in us that cannot be filled, and we can feel that conflict in our hearts. It becomes a loneliness that cannot be fixed because the fix is too risky to be considered.

There must be another way to live, another way to fulfill the needs that solves this dilemma and leaves a sort of peace. Yet, what is the incentive for exposing ourselves to pain? What benefit so outways the most powerful teacher we know, pain, that we are willing to risk everything?

We were made with oddly shaped holes in our psyche that desire and need intimacy and love (read: acceptance). We were also built to respond to pain and adapt. We cannot obey either impulse completely, because they are mutually exclusive. Therefore we must strike the balance on the thin line in the middle. We must be vulnerable in order to obtain love and acceptance, but still we must respond to pain in order to protect ourselves (without blocking out love altogether). If this is indeed the state of things we realize a strange conclusion; we were built to be continually hurt. We are in constant cycle of protecting ourselves so we don't die emotionally, while keeping ourselves vulnerable enough to allow us to experience those things we most desire.

This brings a new perspective to what role pain plays in our dayly lives. How can we press on despite afflictions that wreck our lives and strike deep wounds in our hearts and souls? Because we must. Why do we (should we) continue to risk ourselves with the same sort of things that hurt us before? Because we must.

Survival without love (without acceptance and self-value) is not much of a survival for us. Love without any protection is self-destructive and ultimately terminating. So we live, and we feel pain. We recover, we learn. And we willingly become vulnerable again, and continue this cycle. We are trapped in a tragic circle that seems in certain moments to be hopeless. But in other moments we can almost understand it, and possibly even appreciate it.
If our perspective was emcompasing enough to see the complete cycle, and if we could talk about the whole instead of the small events that plague our days and our happiness, maybe we could learn to appreciate the subject of pain and vulnerability.

warm, fuzzy.

Posted by james on Nov. 2, 2002

Man I love socks.


Posted by james on Oct. 23, 2002

The other day I was driving towards campus, like I always do nowadays. Right after I got of the bridge, there was a car broken down and on the side of the highway. Now, everytime I see something like this I always want to stop, but I usually hesitate and then it's too late; just keep driving on. This time I made up my mind quickly, and decided to stop and see what I could do.

Which ended up being absolutely nothing. This man was driving his halfway-wrecked car to the garage to get fixed, and it refused to shift out of first gear. Of course I did what I could... I looked at his engine, muttered an interesting "hmm" as if to say "hmm... how fascinating." Then I watched him tie the hood close and get ready to drive off. I couldn't do anything.

I asked him if he would be ok, he said he would... and I got ready to drive off. As I drove off I mulled over how I hadn't been able to help him at all, and I watched him out of my rear view mirror. I was driving slowly at first, but I realized he was keeping pace with me. Then I started speeding up just a bit, and he was able to keep up. A miracle! He started to pass me in the fast lane, and as he drove by he gave me a big grin and a victory sign. How great is that?

I started to thinking... this is what I crave; some kind of connection with other people. Even if it's simply my condolences over a shot motor, and a helpful blank stare as I watch him do what he can (nothing). Something as small as a thumbs up as he drives by, a smile that says "Hey! Look what happened! Isn't this wonderful for me?" I realize now that I have much more time alone that I think often of random connections with other people. I think all the time as I pass by random strangers how we could possibly meet, strike up conversation. I could drop a comment to the grocery store checkout lane lady about the price of the apples I buy every morning, or talk to the meat department worker about the differences between mild and sharp cheddar (she likes mild, I gathered). I could help a random stranger, or hold a door, or smile at some small child who is just beginning those things I completed long ago.

I don't yet know what hunger these thoughts reveal. Something built into my insides call out, this is something good. This is something neccessary. But I can't quite pin it down yet, can't name it. And boy, do I love tater-tots.

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