You Make the Meaning
What is the purpose of pain? In a very broad, but direct sense, it serves as an opportunity to stop what we’re doing, re-evaluate the situation, and make changes to what or how we’ve been living. The rational mind craves an explanation for the how and the why this is happening. This can be a helpful exercise, as long as we don’t get caught up in identifying who we are with the process of pain or spiral into negative thought cycles about it.
I was recently stung by a yellow jacket while hiking near the Oregon coast. It did not feel particularly pleasant, but I felt fine and continued my trek back to the car. Over the next two days, what began as some mild redness at my ankle turned into moderate swelling and the cardinal signs of infection started to present and travel up my leg. There is a time and a place to seek medical attention, and this was one of them. Owing to the swelling in my foot and ankle, it became difficult to stand and walk. This presented a major challenge for many reasons, not the least of which being the requirements of my work. I was forced to slow down, and as frustrating as it was to not be able to do, especially at the pace I was operating, it gave me a chance to evaluate how I was doing.
I was going too fast. The ratio of doing to being was heavily skewed. There is a time to push, but there is also a way to push that won’t lead to burnout. I can’t say whether there was a cosmic conspiracy that organized to have that one wasp sting me where it did, when it did. I do believe that the notions of entropy and randomness reflect a limitation in the perspective of the observer. The patterns of life are always weaving. Depending on the scope and scale of what you’re trying to look at, it will appear infinitely complex - but that doesn’t mean it’s chaotic. This could lead to an epistemological regress - ultimate uncertainty about what can be known. From a practical point of view, what I believe is that we have the ability to ascribe the myth and the meaning to the experiences we have. I am choosing to see the wasp as a reminder to be mindful, to move and think at a natural pace, and to trust and continue to be in awe of the brilliant intelligence of the human body’s ability to heal.