by Roberto Merante, doctor and TCM master
I was dozing. That evening, maybe due to the gloomy evening or to the effect of the painkillers, I couldn't enjoy the company of my friends at the club. It could have ended as an evening to forget, when…
"Hey doc, I'm back from a big trip to India and I can't wait to tell you everything!"
It was Wilhelm, happier than ever before; he made me tremble on my armchair.
"Hi Will, I really think this is not the right evening: today I had a terrible toothache and even if I'm feeling better I'm really tired".
"Pain… complex sensation, isn't it! - started the professor - You know doc, I thought back to our discussion of some time ago. I was asking myself this question: what's the role of pain in human life?"
Wilhelm talked again. "I'd do more: Iet's think about life in all its aspects. Just to make an example, what's the difference between human and animal experience? The animal follows the basic rules of life: reproduction, conservation of life, defense from enemies. At this point we can agree with T. S. Eliot: to the essentials, life is "Birth copulation and death" and pain it's just a little death."
"Nice quote - it was again the professor-. Surely for an animal pain is a bad sensation, something it has to escape. For a human being it's totally different. We have the sensation to pursue a bigger destiny than the one of an animal, and our life is constantly influenced by death awareness and the feeling of pain. If you pardon me, I have another quote, this time by Colleen McCullough:
'The bird with a thorn in its chest follows an unchangeable rule: it needs to pierce itself, for an inexplicable instinct, and it dies singing. At the very moment in which the thorn penetrate in its body, the bird hasn't got the awareness of the imminent death: it just keeps on singing, until the life abandon its body and it just can't sing anymore. But we know. We are aware that the thorn is piercing us. And we just keep piercing.'
All of us were grasped by a strong melancholy: almost as an inexplicable and looming destiny was interrupting the flow of our words.
Our friend Nefir came to save us from that: "We keep talking about the same topics. Pain and death are inevitable. But pain for human beings is something to face. In case of physical pain we have science, with medicines and other techniques. But let's think about our spirit, and how it can affect our whole experience. Also in this case, the human being shows his complicated but amazing structure! Poets and artists, and in general the great genius of our history usually had to deal with pain. Maybe the scars which follow a big pain can help the one who carries it to grow up and to create something spectacular, or they can destroy him. Let's think about how important is the pain in building our consciences."
The silence enveloped us, allowing us to think about our human history, with the help of the sound of Vivaldi's music in the background and the embracing smell of our tea.
I don't know how much time passed by, while I was recalling to my mind my personal experience but my patients' pain too.
"To help people, set them free from their illnesses has always been my first aim as a doctor. Now I realize how much this behavior let me improve my consciousness towards the human being. We're used to treat pain with medicines, acupuncture, psychological techniques, but we must not forget that there is a human being in front of us, to be treated with attention and respect."
I realized that for that evening we spent enough words; we stopped talking and sipped our tea.