“The very great virtue of the Old Ways is that they see the world as it is, not as they wish it were.”

(Alain Daniélou)

 

Life is full of pain.

That's what my grandmother would say when you skinned your knee, or grated a knuckle along with the cheese.

(“A little blood makes everything taste sweeter,” was another of her ungainsayable sayings.)

As I've grown older, I've found myself saying the same. As an observation, it's hard to fault.

A friend once accused me of closet Buddhism on the basis of this saying. If I were the kind of person who took easy offense, I would have been offended. So far as I'm concerned, Buddhism is just another damned missionary religion, may they all rot.

But he was wrong, so I let it go by. Life is full of pain.

No, there's nothing Buddhist about this simple saying. This is a pagan Life is full of pain through and through, pragmatically acknowledging the way that things are and then getting on with it.

The expression lends itself to ready irony. When things are merely irritating, or merely inconvenient, it means: it could be worse. Which, of course, is usually true.

And when it addresses real pain instead, it gives perspective. No pain is unique. In pain, as in joy, we always have fellows.

Yes, it hurts, I know, but you'll get through. Yes, it's inconvenient, but it could be so much worse; just accept it and get on with it. Are you going to let a little pain stop you? Come on, you're bigger than that, and besides, there's dinner to make.

No, this is a life-affirming Life is full of pain. Yes there's pain, but there's joy, too. If you're lucky, they'll balance each other out. If not, well...when there's joy, then savor it all the more, knowing that that won't last either.

There's an incompetent in the White House, the country has lost its way, and I don't look nearly as good naked as I used to. Life is full of pain. There it is, and we get on from there as best we may.

Life is full of pain, but the implication is not: Therefore, life is no good. The implication is: Savor, then, while you may.

The simple fact is that all pain is temporary. Like everything else, there's an end to it.

Life is full of pain, and then you die.

Here, chop these onions, would you?