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Pain versus joy; stress versus success - Light One Candle

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September 2nd, 2009


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08:00 pm - Pain versus joy; stress versus success
*laughs* You know you're fixated on an idea when a show like Defying Gravity gives you an opening for articulating it.

I thought it might require a lengthy essay, but I think I can actually condense it to a paragraph or two.

Why do we pay so much more attention to pain than we do to joy? Why are we so much more affected by failure than by success? I'm probably generalizing; introverts like myself are more likely to pay excessive attention to either, and I've seen such people leaning quite hard to the side of pain and stress and hardship.

The easy answer is that pain is uncomfortable, so we notice it more and are more motivated to learn how to avoid it in the future. In other words, pain and stress are more likely to produce changes in how we view and interact with the world.

I find that almost unbearably sad. That the truly good things, love and joy and peace and pleasure and beauty can so easily be relegated to the default position of "things that are not pain."

I wish pleasure and joy produced the same kind of changes in us that pain and pressure do.
Current Mood: melancholymelancholy

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Comments:


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From:whitemartyr
Date:September 3rd, 2009 04:59 am (UTC)
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I love you.
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 5th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
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That's a pretty perfect icon for this post. :)
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From:kimmer1227
Date:September 3rd, 2009 11:24 am (UTC)
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I find that almost unbearably sad. That the truly good things, love and joy and peace and pleasure and beauty can so easily be relegated to the default position of "things that are not pain."

I'd never thought about it in that particular way, but you are very very right. That is my default setting. How damn sad.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:September 5th, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)
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Perhaps that can change. I'm pondering these things. Let me know if you come up with anything about it.
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From:persephone_kore
Date:September 3rd, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
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That the truly good things, love and joy and peace and pleasure and beauty can so easily be relegated to the default position of "things that are not pain."

I wonder if this is behind the argument that without sorrow, we couldn't really experience joy, etc.
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From:scionofgrace
Date:September 4th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC)
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I personally believe that some people fixate on pain because they don't realize how COMPLETELY AWESOME joy and love can be. Joy transforms me: when I encounter something beautiful, it almost hurts. For me, the best use for pain and suffering is to contrast it with the joy.

Not sure how to convince other people of that, though...
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 4th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
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That doesn't explain the rest of us, though. I believe that joy (Joy) is the center and beginning and end of the universe, but pain is a lot louder, and what joy gives me never sticks around as long as the "duck and cover" responses I learn from pain. I enjoy it while it's there, but there is little actual transformation (or it's too subtle to really hold on to).

What about that? It's not a matter of convincing; just a matter of experience.
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From:scionofgrace
Date:September 4th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
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Okay, now you've really got me thinking about this.

I mean, pain definitely transforms me. I can recall with perfect clarity 9/11, or the day I realized that my dearest and oldest friend had effectively dumped me. Those things are scarring, and don't ever really go away. I know I have trust issues now that I didn't have ten years ago.

But I cling to transforming joy. It's like Mary in the gospel of Luke, who "treasured up all these things in her heart". It's a conscious choice. When I encounter that aching joy, the kind that threatens to make my heart explode, I know that those are the moments where the real nature of the universe is breaking through, and so I try to soak in as much of it as possible. It's like when you get a glimpse of someone you idolize, or hear the voice of someone you love after far too long: you hold on to that as long and as hard as you can, because it's precious to you and it's going to be gone far too soon.

When those moments are over, I can comfort myself by recalling them, and knowing that they're true. I make them inform my life. (And the part that really blows my mind is knowing that said joy is just a fleeting shadow of real Joy - if I find it tenuous or wanting, it's because it's not "whole".)

It's like, it's good to have a solid foundation of philosophy and theology to stand on, but it's even better when you can shore it up with things you've actually seen and done. Like a real-life Patronus charm.

Does that help?
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 4th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
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No, not really.

I mean, I know what you're saying, and I don't disagree with it--but if that's really, really all there is going on? Then the fact that I'm failing to hold onto those moments in ways that keep me afloat means...I am constantly and consistently failing at life, flat out.

There are people who willingly conspire with pain, for whatever reason.

But I still don't understand why those of us who do our best to conspire with joy are still overwhelmed. Why that choice is not enough.
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From:scionofgrace
Date:September 5th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
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I don't know. I really don't. And I don't believe you're "failing at life." This is the first time I've ever thought about it, so if I ever have answers, it'll be awhile yet.

Wow. This is gonna take thought.
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From:scionofgrace
Date:September 5th, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
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Right... ten minutes later and I'm thinking I'm not going to get any sleep now...

How does pain overwhelm more than joy? I mean, I know you don't get the why (I don't either), especially if you seek the joy - in what way is it more powerful? Or, is it easier to recall pain during joy than it is to recall joy during pain?

I think I need to finally buy A Grief Observed, and I don't know what else...
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 5th, 2009 06:38 am (UTC)
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Sorry for keeping you up. :-D

I think perhaps there's an element of compulsion to it? Pain makes itself heard, is unavoidable, is attention-getting and interferes with life until one either fixes what is causing the pain or finds a way to manage it. (Ditto extreme stressors, etc.)

Whereas joy can surprise and overwhelm one, but as you said above, it has to be held onto.

And in relation to all that: we tend to bend ourselves away from pain and the possibility of more pain. We learn "lessons" (sometimes wise, sometimes really irrational) from being in pain.

We can learn from pleasure, too; but it's less of a learning experience and more of a sheer enjoyment, a present-moment experience, usually. Which is perhaps part of the reason it's difficult to hold onto at times?

is it easier to recall pain during joy than it is to recall joy during pain?

Sometimes. Not all the time, but I would say that's sometimes true.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:September 5th, 2009 06:38 am (UTC)
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p.s. Have you read A Grief Observed? (I see you say only that you don't own it.) It's very good.....
[User Picture]
From:scionofgrace
Date:September 5th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
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No, I've never read it. (I could probably borrow it from the church library, but given that it's C.S. Lewis, I'll probably want to keep it!)

And I don't mind being kept up over philosophical problems. They're fascinating.

I guess I assumed we would learn from joy in a "that was fun, let's do it again" way, if nothing else.

And I don't think I was quite clear on one point: joy =! happiness. In fact, I was thinking today about how having that foundation of joy can actually make a person more angry, sorrowful, frustrated, etc, on account of having a clearer idea of perfection to compare life to. It's harder to say "oh well" when the wrongness is thrown in such sharp relief to the rightness we know to be true.

Also, the "negative" emotions (anger, sorrow, etc) can't be bad or sinful in themselves, because Jesus expressed them all. "Blessed are those who mourn," for instance. They're the right and appropriate response to any number of things, and stuffing them away or paving them over isn't any more right than playing them up and clinging to them.

...still pondering...

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