Pain

Hating bodies

Hating bodies is a form of self-hatred and leads to hatred of others, human and (non-human) animal. Hating what you yourself are is already pointless and makes for unhappiness. But it is worse still when we know that projective disgust is almost certain to follow. Body-haters are bound to find some surrogate for the animal, the bodily, in themselves, whether it be a racial group, a gender or sexual group, or the aging, who come in for a tremendous amount of body-hatred all over the world.

One particularly significant reason to avoid the projective form of body-hatred is the way it has distorted and poisoned our relationship to the other animals …

With the fiction of the incorporeal driving a wedge between us and all other animal species, we can all the more nonchalantly treat them as if they were nothing. Since I think our torture and exploitation of other animals is a great moral evil, I would like to point out that things would almost certainly not have reached the present stage of cruelty and neglect but for our lies about who we are — our erroneous view that we are not their fellows and family members, but some spiritual stuff floating around somewhere, in or with a body but essentially not of it.

However. However. One big reason to despise the body remains: it is mortal and vulnerable, it is the very seat of our mortality. All the other things that disgust us are not so much “animal reminders” as “pain-and-death reminders.” What is found ugly and disgusting is, first, pain; and, second, death and decay, and whatever reminds us of them. The fiction of the incorporeal is above all a fiction of (painless) immortality. Socrates’ friends surround him in prison, mourning his imminent demise. You are mistaken, he says cheerfully. The real me will not die, because it is not bodily at all, but an incorporeal substance merely trapped in the body. The students cheer up — and those that do not, including Socrates’s wife, are made to leave the room’.

– Martha C. Nussbaum, ‘On Not Hating the Body’. Liberties 2, no. 2 (2022).

I should very much like to have met Socrates’ wife.

Karen Kilby on suffering, pain and loss

In this video, Karen Kilby reflects on suffering, pain and loss in the Christian theological tradition and, as might be expected, she draws heavily upon the work of Han Urs von Balthasar (who is also the subject of her recent book, Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction, a book which I am very much looking forward to reading).

‘Love Is the True Pain’, by Geoffrey Bingham

Love is the true pain: true pain is the love
That lives not for itself, but for the love
Which has come to it. In God is pain.
God’s pain is not the anguish that destroys
The searing harshness that comes to Him
From the rebel spirit of Man
And celestials become demonic,
Leaving their first estate.
It is not the pain of jealousy
Made bitter by holy lips that press
Or teeth divine that bite
On acrid aloes of Man’s sin.
It is not the irrational anger
Against gods destroying the beauty
Of the original Man.
This is not pain divine,
But pain Man reads upwards from himself
Into the Eternal Love—Himself Who’s love,
As Love Himself.

Love is the true pain that searches out
The beleaguered spirit of lost Man,
That reaches out to where sin has confused,
Where will in its acrid anger—
Misplaced against the Deity—
Burns in its own acidic rage
Baffling its inward search and outward reaching
To what is the image in itself
Of the Divine Real—the true God,
The Being that is love Himself
Who in His heart implores all day
And into the reaches of eternal night
That Man return to Him, come home
To the Divine love that gives itself
On the timbers twisted by Man’s hate
Into Cross shape and Cross rages,
And Cross rejection.

On the Cross is the true pain, yet it began
Before even the creation of the
Purposed peerless Man, and the utter glory
Of the commanded creation. It always was
Without beginning, as it always is
Without cessation. Futurity
Is love come to the now-time,
And love taking what it loves
To the eternal time of love.
Love is the pain that kills
Forever all pain that brings to birth anew
That which had died to love—the spirit loved,
Breathed into Man until he glowed
As the living image, destined to become
The palpable glory of the Living God
From time into all eternity.

Was it that Man saw in the Reality—
In the One Whom he imaged—
The impossibility of no-pain,
The essential nature of the essential love
That must inevitably—though of free choice—
Reveal the mystery of its Being
In the timbered Cross, in the love-pain
That redeems the created beloved? Did Man
Know the full Nature when the serpent moved
To beguile the woman and entice through her
The knowledgeable man who chose
The path that would never know pain?
Was it rejection of love that is pain
Until that love brings through to no-pain
What it has created? If this be so
Then deception was deceived.

Love is a mystery—love that has pain—
And pain is a sad sorrow where love is refused,
When sharing in the divine Nature is rejected,
When Man seeks to kill pain out of his own sources
And turn the earth to manufactured anodynes
And tranquillising measures. Man fears pain,
But—deeper—fears the love that loves
Man in his pain, his deep distress self-wrought
And making spirit all awry in the matchless beauty
Of the granted gift—the joyous creation.

Faith leaves it there, even when the brain
Ponders the great imponderable;
Ruminates in the cud of the mind
The mystery that veils itself until it’s seen
On Calvary’s peerless hill. Here the true anger
Burns against evil, is a high furnace
That dissolves the dross: is a raging wrath
That knows love’s hate against the dread evil
Of the love-rejecters—both celestial and mundane—
Until all evil’s judged; until the pain
That wracks Man’s spirit is forever gone,
Banished into no-being and no-pain.
This is the love that is the true pain.

We then, who love, dare not escape—
Nor would we—from the heart of love.
This only moves us to the perpetual giving,
The never asking in return. Rageless we range
The hurts and haunts of men with the Divine balm
That brings its healing salve
To the lost and helpless spirits
He once encapsulated within his heart
That suffered the eternal pain
In the infinite compassing within the finite time,
All that was human lostness, human death
And human unknowing of the love that’s pain.

– Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Love Is the true pain’, in All Things of the Spirit (Blackwood: New Creation Publications, 1997), 106–08.