July 8th, 2008

review books

You have to die so many times before you die

I ran across something today that I thought was pretty interesting.

"Are words actually any use to describe what pain really feels like? Words only come when everything is over, when things have calmed down. They refer only to memory, and are either powerless or untruthful."

-Alphonse Daudet

Daudet was a french novelist who apparently suffered a pretty unpleasant decline and death due to syphilis. He meant to write a book about pain, but it never got past the note taking stage. What scraps there were have now been translated and one reviewer called it the bitter version of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It was published under the title In the Land of Pain and I've been looking at a few reviews of the work. The title quote is also from him and I can really get what he's saying as only someone who suffers through chronic pain can. Trying to write or think during the pain is almost an impossibility. I've tried to tap out LJ entries when things have been bad and it's always a stalled effort. It's only when the pain has receded and I once more have some control of my faculties that I can try to express what it was like. By then, it all sounds trite and loses all that terrible urgency of now that existed when the agony roiled and tossed.

As I'm reading some of the other bits he wrote, it's perhaps not surprising that I can relate to so much of it.

"Pain is always new to the sufferer, but loses its originality for those around him. Everyone will get used to it except me."

There's a reason that it was so long before I even mentioned pain issues on this journal or discussed it at all with anyone I knew. The pain is visceral and immediate to me, as sharp and focused as a slap in the face. It's impossible to ignore and there is no habituation with time. Each time it visits it's are fresh, crisp, and attention getting as the first time I felt its touch. While I will likely never experience tolerance to it, it's hard to imagine that those around me won't. How long before it becomes tedious to read about? How long before what is so poignant to me becomes simply something trite and banal to everyone I know or who reads my words?

"Poor humanity — you shouldn't tell it everything. I shouldn't inflict on people what I've endured, this painful, all too self-aware end to my life."