This place matters

This place matters

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Others' bodies

If you're not listening to Nate DiMeo's The Memory Palace, I'd highly recommend it. You can listen to it online by going to the website or downloading it on iTunes.
In one episode entitled Other Bodies, he spoke of Jean Froman, a singer whose career began in the early 20th century. Feel free to play this as a musical backdrop to the rest of the post. 


Froman was a gorgeous woman with a voice to match, but this post isn't about that. It's about the excruciating pain she suffered for the rest of her life after a deadly plane crash. 
DiMeo reflects on pain, and people who live with it. He says that this is the way pain works, when it exists in other people's bodies: "When a running back jukes left, we don't know... the pain, we just see the four yard gain... We don't know our neighbor's lupus. Or seem to be able to remember our [loved ones'] pain, even though it's with them all the time, and that it's all they'd really want to talk about if anyone wanted to hear. The best we can do is try to imagine, and remember."
Artist Frida Kahlo had polio as a child. She recovered, but as a teen she was in a bus accident that broke her spinal column and dozens of bones. A handrail pierced her abdomen and exited her body through her vagina. The accident left her in terrible pain and without the ability to carry a baby to term. She had dozens of surgeries, including the amputation of a leg later in her life. Some art historians have speculated that Kahlo may have been playing her pain up, insisting on surgeries she didn't actually need, all to control her husband, artist Diego Rivera. That is the way with other people's pain as well sometimes - especially for women. When we don't want to feel empathy for someone, or when we don't want to have to even imagine what they're going through, sometimes we decide that the pain must not really be there. That it's all in the sufferer's mind. That if we survived polio and 35 surgeries and 3 miscarriages and a body full of shattered bones, we'd just suck it up and not burden other people with it. 
Victor Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist who spent three years in concentration camps during the Holocaust. There he suffered pain and torture worse that the worst pain a person could possibly imagine. Later he would write Man's Search for Meaning, a book read by tens of millions of people the world over. In it, he writes of a forced march in the freezing cold that caused him the following realization:
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets... that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation...man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.
Because sometimes, just sometimes, this is how pain in other people's bodies works. It gives them insight and the wisdom that allows them to be a light in the darkness for tens of millions of people in pain, long after their own body is gone.

1 comment:

msmariah said...

That is probably one of the most beautiful quotes I have ever read. It's amazing that a man who endured the suffering like he did would write such beautiful words. When terrible things happen I want to remember that quote.

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