This will be a very eclectic harvest today, but will the reflect the good and the bad of the last two weeks for me. From serious toothache and emergency trips to the dentist, to finishing a painting and developing afghan crochet squares, to finding a new book to read as a result of some serendipitous blog reading, and following on from Lin Yutang’s philosophy, a video featuring a simple rule of life – that maybe, just maybe, we should be grateful for everything.
So here we go…
No Pain, no gain?
Is this true? I’ve been asking myself recently. This philosophy is ingrained in our culture. From physical fitness and feeling the burn with Jane Fonda, who used this aphorism in her workout videos, to the pursuit of any endeavour we put our heads and hearts into. We should take the knocks, we are told, to build our resolve, mettle, and stamina, to weather the adversity, so that when the gold stars come our way, we have really earned them. Freud called it the pleasure-pain principle. Twitter and facebook are riddled with such memes, to encourage us that the ‘pain’ will be worth it in the end as long as we don’t give up. This is also similar to the idea of what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger which I’ve just discovered comes from Nietzsche, the existentialist:
In 1888, Nietzsche wrote “Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens -. Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker,” which can be translated as “Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” It appears in his book of aphorisms, Twilight of the Idols, and no further explanation follows.
Nietzsche expanded on the idea somewhat in his autobiography Ecce Homo, also composed in 1888. Here, he refers to select individuals as “nature’s lucky strokes…among men,” and says of such a person, “He divines remedies for injuries; he knows how to turn serious accidents to his own advantage; that which does not kill him makes him stronger.”
University of Glasgow philosophy professor Michael Brady explains that Nietzsche does not seem to think that all suffering will result in strength, but rather that he is suggesting one should take suffering as an opportunity to build strength, and that those who are already strong are those who can do so. In his book Death Desire and Loss in Western Culture English philosopher Jonathan Dollimore describes this process of embracing suffering as an opportunity to gain strength, calling it a “magical, cannibalistic ingestion.”
Wow! Now, like many of us, I have had times in my life where this no pain, no gain, seems to have reaped benefits in toughening me up. Making me more resilient, more able to bounce back after adversity, to hold my own. But I’m not entirely sure how much it really strengthens our spirit or adds to our sense of wellbeing. Maybe it just helps us deal with the stresses and strains of life, to not cave in, but life surely should be far more than that, not merely about survival. No pain, no gain, and nothing that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, don’t seem to me to have truly positive long term benefits, and it certainly doesn’t, in my view, have much bearing upon our creative lives. If it does, then there’s something wrong. Thoughts on this most welcome!
Anyway, I was able to test these ideas recently when I had bad toothache after a deep molar filling about three weeks ago. There was no pain when it was first suggested I needed a filling and I did was I was told, I had a filling. Without boring you with the details (well, not too much;>)), I ended up changing dentists, having the new filling removed by an emergency dentist, and a temporary one put in with a soothing dressing. Verdict – the filling was very close to the nerve, but the tooth may ‘settle’. It didn’t. Next up was the pain increasing, and my stress and anxiety levels escalating, and a visit to the new dentist I registered with, who persuaded me to keep trying to see if the tooth would settle down. It didn’t. By this time I wanted it extracting! Next visit, the nerve of the tooth was finally designated as irreversibly damaged and I was persuaded to have it prepped for a root filling right there and then. If it didn’t work, then the tooth could be extracted. This is where the no pain, no gain theoretically came into play. I was exhausted, desperate and nervous. The pain after the anaesthetic was injected was horrendous, the pain as the nerves were ‘tested’ for ‘whatever’ was horrendous. I yelped at times. I couldn’t believe what I was sitting through, but of course, my thinking now was no pain, no gain – the gain being the end of toothache. When I came away I couldn’t believe what I had just sat through. I didn’t know I was that ‘tough’. During the procedure I’d seen Dustin Hoffman in my mind’s eye being tortured by the evil Nazi in Marathon Man. So why did I do it? Well I garnered some trust through the dentist being this lovely petite lady from Mallorca. The accent was different and I listened and believed. She told me what she was doing every step of the way and warned me in advance of ‘discomfort’. Her verdict was that all the pain made sense as the nerves were vey inflamed. I came away with antibiotics to take, and to make an appointment for a weeks time for the root filling to be completed.
I expect you’re thinking it is sorted out now. Answer, no. The second appointment is weeks away, as most of the dentists are on holiday. ‘Should be fine left until the beginning of August,’ I was told. But only today, one side of my tooth came away as I gently nibbled at a cheese scone, only to be followed by the temporary filling crumbling away. So now I will have to ring the dentist’s emergency number on Monday morning, supposedly to continue this no pain, no gain experiment. Only I’ve made up my mind – if it hurts again, it’s coming out. No pain, that’s a gain.
Now onto the finishing of the work in progress I’ve shared with you, which you’ll hopefully be pleased to learn was a painless process!
From these previous stages, to the final:
The working into the embossed wallpaper printed patterns, with more realistically painted supplementary grasses and seed heads, worked better than I anticipated and it didn’t take as much time as I’d envisaged – so it’s a good technique to use another time. Yay! I had to create added depth in the foreground textures to invite the eye into the scene. And I decided the sky was too plain, but I didn’t relish adding too many clouds, so I settled for a very subtle one or two to give increased visual perspective and hopefully to lend a misty feel to the view, which I’ve entitled ‘Field Walk’.
New skill learning with crocheted afghan squares.
It’s funny, the friend who I was kind of competing with over learning these afghan square techniques has actually ‘gone off them’, while I continue to want to learn more. I was somewhat mystified by this response, and yet it reminded me of my own nature, which I decided to appreciate. I like to know and I love to learn new skills and to take them wherever they may lead me. I’ve learned two afghan square patterns so far and would like to learn a third, as long as it’s at about the same skill level, so I’m open to suggestions. Here is a layout of what I’ve got going so far:
And onto a new discovery and serendipitous blog-reading.
I was reading through my favourite bloggers posts this week, as I usually do, and I found a post by ‘The Used Life’ entitled ‘On the art of wildness’. Well, the lady writer drew me in with art and wildness in her title.
The Used Life often focuses on assessing ideologies on ‘the creative life’ and more generally the psychology and philosophy of life, and in this post, I realised I was kind of in the same ‘place’ currently. Here is what she says:
The more I contemplate issues of purpose and meaning—and have contemplated them historically, as finding meaning was the quest that brought this blog into being—the more I seem to move definitively toward purposelessness. That is, the more I begin to understand that it’s the need for such a quest that’s the problem. And that struggling with feelings of purposelessness and meaninglessness represent a kind of collective soul sickness. An impoverishment of the spirit that affects all of us, I think, at some point in our lives.
Then in our comments engagement, she drew me to a book called Become what you are by British and American philosopher, Alan Watts, who interprets Buddhism and Taoism ideas for western ways of life. Since it seems to be somehow in line with Lin Yutang, I’ve ordered a copy to hopefully relish. It looks like Hilary Mantel’s French Revolutionary novel, A Place of Greater Safety, as thick as a cord of wood, which I am presently a third of the way through, will have to wait, doesn’t it?
Alan Watts’s rich and very British BBC accent can be heard in many Youtube videos expounding on theories drawing upon the Eastern religions. If you are interested in checking him out, here is a shorter video I managed to find, on living a harmonious life, with a lovely weaving analogy for those who love textile craft.
And the weird thing is I spotted his videos when I was watching this wonderful video and song entitled ‘Grateful for it all’ which I was led to by Galen Pearl’s blog article of the same title. And thank you, Galen!
So this song just has to be the finale of this post! And I hope you enjoy it :>)
(pics from Lynne)