Sunday’s Wisdom #354: Pain and Love

“A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.”
– from “I Am a Rock,” by Simon & Garfunkel

Neither does the rock feel joy, nor does the island ever laugh.

This is one the saddest songs I have ever heard. It’s a classic for a reason, because it speaks to the emotion of loss and loneliness which we are all familiar with. I disagree with it a bit, though, because while it expresses what is felt in the wake of loss, it seems to be told from the perspective of one who has chosen to remain alone after being left alone, and praises that choice. It’s understandable, of course, it being a fairly common psychological response. “Touch the fire, it burns, that hurts, don’t touch the fire again,” that sort of thing. But love and fire are not the same.

Love burns far hotter than any flame, but where healing from a fire’s burn involves never touching it again, healing from love’s burn very much involves feeling it again.

The lyrics of the song talk more about leaving the feeling of love alone to sleep in a distant memory. They don’t want to feel love again because they have lost it, and that hurts. Of course it hurts. The narrator mentions disdaining laughter and love because friendship brings pain, and there is some truth to that, just as every sunrise must inevitably lead towards a sunset. But in this instance, avoiding laughter, love, and friendship because the loss of such hurts makes about as much sense as going underground to hide from the sun because one doesn’t like the cold and darkness that follows some time after every sunrise.

It is not actually love that burns and hurts us. It’s the loss of it, the absence of it, which hurts us so.

Even worse, to go without love, or try to, in order to avoid further pain… well, that doesn’t prevent the pain at all. It just keeps the pain we already have and refuses to let it go. It’s a refusal to heal. How many stories do we have of people who spent so long alone, but were only healed and knew joy when they were able to feel love again?

It is a simple fact of life that there is pain. No one can avoid it. It dominates our existence. That is universal. The question, then, isn’t if we can avoid pain, but if we will obtain joy. Even more, the question goes further: will we keep obtaining joy, even when we know its cost?

Grief is love persevering, yes?

So, are the people we have loved worth that grief or not? Are the people we can still love worth the pain? Is our happiness with them worth the tears we shed when we lose them, or not?

I can personally think of no greater insult to those who have loved me than if I were to effectively say, “Not worth it.”

Of course, when I say that, I don’t mean to diminish the pain of others, and the people who, having felt the pain of loss, need a long time to heal, or don’t know how to deal with it for awhile.

I simply disagree with the choice to refuse to heal, and refuse laugh and love and live again. Yes, there will be pain, as there always has been, but it doesn’t have to outweigh the joy.

Pain does not need to be permanent.

We are meant to know joy, and I hate to see people deprive themselves of joy. That, in and of itself, is just another form of pain, which, I hate to see my fellow creatures locked into any form of suffering.

And that is why I simply cannot agree with the choice to remain alone, and especially to praise it, deluding oneself into believing that solitude is better than love.

I may have to respect that choice when others make it, as their lives are not mine to run, but I will never agree with it.

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