Monday, April 16, 2012

Is there any inherent value to pain?

A friend and I were chatting about forgiveness today. He does it out of humility, an understanding that we all have weaknesses. But to some degree, it's also a coping mechanism, a way to stop spending energy on a painful or upsetting topic. I think both are right on target. I'm envious of that kind of clarity. Forgiveness, as I understand it, does the greatest good for the forgiver in the situation. I understand it intellectually, but I've never been able to actually do it. I just slowly suffer a little bit less. But if I think about it, the pain is still there.

Then a friend sent me this link, about being a woman in Somalia. It turns out it is the worst place in the world to be a woman. Sexual assault and general violence toward women is horrifically rampant, and there seems to be no end in sight. It's something that in the past would have sent me into a pretty deep depression about humanity. And there's a large part of me that feels incredibly helpless and hopeless about the situation. First thought: What can I do? Well, give money. OK. Then what? Like the charity on Facebook? I better watch that I don't strain a muscle. In the past, I'd have fantasized about quitting my job and becoming a feminist lawyer, but that's less realistic now that I have a family to support and my best-chance LSATs have long expired. Realistically, after the money and the Facebook, it's just me being upset about it. And what does that accomplish? What good does it do those women?

There's an episode of Six Feet Under after a main character's horrific attack in which he sees the vision of his dead father. This character suffers mightily for a while. At one point, he goes to confront his attacker, but it doesn't seem like this will help him move past the attack. His father says, "You hang on to your pain like it means something, like it's worth something. Well, let me tell you, it's not worth shit. Let it go."

And I think, maybe it's as simple as that. If I've taken the actions that I can, maybe my pain -- about myself or someone else -- is not worth shit.

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