1 January 10, 2005 David Wipperfurth

Saving the Pain

Pain, like fear, is a defense mechanism of nearly all evolved life. Pain is not caused by knives, bears, or harsh words. Technically when your cells are injured they release chemicals into your blood and surrounding cells, which then relay the message on in their own way. Also the message is sent through your nervous system, and your brain receives this message and acts on it. What exactly your brain does must be an intricate working, to indirectly tell you what happened was wrong. For all I know, your hindbrain takes away your cortex’s allowance, but the way it works is of little importance in this discussion. Pain and fear are favored by evolution because when implemented they do a fair job of increasing life expectancy, thereby extending procreation time.

If a wolf was chewing on an elk’s leg and it didn’t hurt, the elk would have little reason to resist, and eventually the elk would die of blood loss if nothing else. Fear is, for the most part, a remembrance and avoidance of pain. This would help the elk to resist before it was too late to work. Pain’s sole purpose, as it were, is to keep its owner living, that’s it. Pain has no intelligence; it works in a very instinctual and specific manor, which is why acetaminophen is used. If pain were smarter you wouldn’t need to be put under for surgery, which is fairly unfortunate considering all discomfort and unhappiness stems

2 from pain. Pain is the basis for classical conditioning, be it negative or positive reinforcement because, what is pleasure if not just less pain. Pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, easily fit on one scale and could plausibly be governed in your brain much the same way.

Classical conditioning is thought to be the basis for more advanced forms of learning, and the idea that emotions like sadness are an abstraction of pain is not disagreeable. All your motives are based on what would make you happy, whether you spend your life accumulating wealth or being charitable, you do what you do hopefully because it’s what you want to do, and if it doesn’t make you happy it’s not from a lack of effort. Again, this happiness that you seek is a lack of sadness, or pain, and its whole goal is to keep you alive. That obviously doesn’t mean that your friend will actually die if they don’t get a new Gucci bag, but even a desire for something as frivolous as that, if followed far enough could get back to a primal instinct. The truth is most of our emotions, culture, personality, society; most of us is made from our distaste of distaste.

The Irony of the phrase, “Put it out of its misery” fits this discussion perfectly. If pain where a person it would be the greatest humanitarian. Its only reason for existing is to prevent death, so without a doubt it would be opposed to anything resembling euthanasia. Suicide is also an interesting topic. When the sadness or pain is too great some people end their lives to stop the pain. This is a major flaw with pain, causing the one condition it is “designed” to prevent. Animals will gnaw their own legs off to stay alive; suicide doesn’t really apply to animals. Suicide is an error in human pain partially due to the

3 heightened level of abstraction we use with regard to pain, but most the blame lies with our knowledge of death. It is probable that despite all their efforts to stay alive, many other life forms have no concept of death. Those that do won’t have a concept thorough enough to include the lack of pain involved with the state of death, or make the connection that they could end pain by dying.

So, pain has been brought about by evolution because it helps creatures prosper. Suicide is then in a sense a mutation that shouldn’t stand the test of time, even though it is a highorder trait. Pain is one of the best evolutionary traits and as a result, makes up a majority of who we all are. Pain, though not intelligible, is virtuous although in an ironic manner. No one wants pain; they need it, and should have respect and disdain for it.