Monday, July 05, 2004

A Lifetime of Pain

In life, there are experiences which plainly can’t be avoided. One of them involves pain. Of course having said that, some experiences are more painful than others. As human beings, we often opt for the choices that bestow upon us the least suffering. But telling which is which is not often so easy. As my grade school tutor once told me, “it’s often the smallest pinpricks that sting the most.”

Obviously, there are many levels of suffering. As I am writing this, I am undergoing many unpleasant reactions. First and foremost are the mosquitoes that have bitten me in every part of my body (except my private parts, which is why I don’t run around naked). That’s probably the best example I can give that lends credence to my tutor’s statement. Because if my wounds were inflicted by much larger creatures, the pain would be distributed over a larger part of my body. But mosquitoes being tiny creatures with penetrating teeth, the smallest wound they inflict causes me the most distraction and it leaves marks and sometimes, scars.

Of course not all injuries scar. At least not visually. In grade school and high school, I was bullied. The former left me bruises on body parts which were covered by my clothes (because children are smarter than they look, and the last thing they want is to get caught by the school authorities). But the latter inflicted upon me wounds that no medicine could cure. Because they were wounds that struck a person’s psyche, each blow shaving off a portion of an individual’s soul. First came the ostracism and the taunts. At first, they didn’t hurt. One holds to the phrase “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” But over time, the words became sharp as steel, and I soon found myself impaled upon a bed of blades. When you’re taunted on the first day of class, they call it an initiation into high school life. When you’re taunted and ostracized over the span of several years, one looks into the past, and realizes that things won’t change for the better. I stopped hoping that the bullies would go away, that somebody would pity me and befriend me. Coming to terms with that actually made the pain hurt a little less. Because that also meant that if I wanted things to change, I would have to be the one who changed it rather than hope that some cosmic being or adult would make things better for me.

While the bullying hurt me, the pain that cuts deep into my heart is that of isolation. Our friends are often people whom we can relate to and vice versa. When you don’t have friends, all you have to say might as well be jibberish. All the actions that you perform might as well be some arcane ritual. And when that occurs, you might as well be living alone. Because we humans are blessed with mouths so that we can communicate. Reading and writing is a mere extension of that. But they’re all meaningless if there’s no one to comprehend it all (what is the sound of a tree falling with no one to hear?). There was a point in time when I was a walking pariah, someone everybody avoided (and since this is the Philippines, all the while feigning friendship and amicability). And that is perhaps the most grievous hurt one can feel. Granted, there are no visible wounds on your body. Granted, one can be in a perfect state of health. But the underlying factor there is that there’s no one you can talk to, no one that relates to you. And while as adults we claim to be independent, no person is truly independent from the world around him. He needs succor from his loved ones, respite from loneliness. Perhaps that’s why amidst all the war and suffering we inflict upon others, in the end, we all come back to each other and unite with what we call “humanity” or the human race.

As for me, I’ve learned that the most grievous of wounds aren’t necessarily the ones that are visible, or the ones that can heal naturally. If there’s anything I can be grateful for, it’s that pain has heightened my senses, and made me more aware of the people around me. And grateful for the people that are actually capable of hurting me, because that only means I care for them enough that they can inflict such wounds on my person.