The Nothingness of Pain

The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers by Joanna Bourke. A Guardian Review
Is pain tedious, indescribable, even a good thing? This study offers a reminder of the days when suffering agonies was thought to be character-forming.

Also listen to the online edition of Start the Week, Radio 4. Joanna Bourke talks with authority, and I have to say enthusiasm, about the history of pain. Especially interesting is the brief discussion about the relationship between pain and fear which comes approx. 14 minutes into the program.

One can express the fears around pain and people often do. Will it ever end, will it kill me, am I going to die, what have I done to deserve this torture. But when it comes to describing what the pain itself feels like we are oddly lost for words. There’s a possible explanation for why this is so.
The following is taken from the Guardian review of Bourke’s book:

Our pleasures connect us to the world, it seems, but pain condemns us to isolation. There are odes to pleasure, and paintings, plays, symphonies and operas that celebrate its infinite variety; but there are no works of art that express the nothingness of pain.

For those who live alone in the presence of pain.

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2 thoughts on “The Nothingness of Pain”

  1. Hmm! Pause for thought here. What comes to mind is “Pain from Within” which I think is isolating and potentially loneliness making. What I mean is the pain that arises from illness or disorder while on the other hand there is what I would call “Inflicted Pain” such as injury from accident, being assaulted in some way or even surgery. Here I think fear can be a very strong factor especially when the pain is anticipated.


  2. I certainly see a strong relationship between pain and isolation. I’m not convinced that there are no works of art about pain or even specifically the isolation of pain. First to come to mind are Edvard Munch – The Scream, Mahler’s symphony 5, (and in a related way Vaughan William’s Lark ascending) and the war poetry of course.

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