Life Is Pain

Highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

There was a time when I and my sisters could quote The Princess Bride from start to finish. It remains one of my favorite movies, packed with eminently quotable quotes. Not to mention what remains in my opinion one of the greatest swordfight sequences ever filmed (“I’m not left-handed either” – at which point the first time I watched it this leftie was utterly stunned to realize that yes, all the fencing so far had been done left-handed).

It’s also chock-full of damn good advice for living and for writing. Take “Life is pain” – Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts is so right about that, even if the pain isn’t necessarily physical. Everyone, whether a character in someone’s book or a real person, faces challenges and risks as they go through life. Whenever you think you’ve got it sorted out, something jumps up and smacks you in the face with the knowledge that you’ve only managed to get a temporary handle on things, and only for a little while.

Personally, I think life just likes throwing curveballs at people and hides somewhere giggling every time one of us gets overwhelmed and starts panicking. Life, or Fate, or any of those other quasi-deific beings (or anthropomorphic personifications – I honestly don’t know what they actually are, but there are enough gods or demigods who represent various aspects of life and fate that deific isn’t something I’m going to completely rule out without proof). It’s just that the perversity of existence is such that it looks a hell of a lot like there’s a mischievous being out there having fun upending what people want to see happening.

In some ways this is a good thing. Whether it’s caused by quasi-deific personifications, malicious authors visiting hell on their beloved protagonists, or just a function of untold billions of random outcomes mixing with at least as many decisions, the result includes a lot of things that would never have come about if everyone got what they wanted and had a nice, pleasant, predictable life.

We’d probably still be predictably driving herds of large herbivores off cliffs if that was the case.

Because one thing I’ve noticed is that most people are very reluctant to change how they do things or how they think. It only ever really happens if people are forced to change, and even then they’ll push for the “good old days” despite said days being neither good nor particularly old – even when it’s absolutely impossible for those times and ways of being to return.

We can’t go back to pre-Industrial Revolution technology. Hell, most of the people reading this can’t go back to pre-Internet technology. Too much of the world has shaped itself around computers and being permanently online. It’s entirely possible that smartphones have shaped our lives around themselves much the same way.

Yet, we’ve grown with the changes, be they technological or something else. We’ve changed with them. Those changes may be good or not, but they exist. Modern culture is very different to the culture of the late 1990s, which in turn bears no resemblance to the early 1980s. I’m not going further back than that for the simple reason that once I get back around the 1980s I have to use external references rather than my memories and the touch points start getting a bit blurred.

Those changes weren’t easy. They hurt. Let’s face it, we humans can’t live without some form of pain and death, even if said death is only the millions of dead skin cells we slough off every day (yes I could go into a long discourse on the dead animal and plant material we consume but you get the point). Our bodies spend their entire existence constantly rebuilding themselves, and our minds and attitude do the same.

It’s not always easy. It’s often uncomfortable. So yeah, life is pain. And anyone who tries to convince you that you can get something without paying for it with some kind of pain is most definitely trying to sell something.


  1. One of the most intriguing things I learned while reading about the history of China is that China didn’t have to change and develop. Not in the ways that European cultures did. Their geography and culture shielded them from the collisions that affected (afflicted?) the other end of Eurasia. They had things that worked, worked well for them 99% of the time, and change wasn’t as necessary for survival. Alas for China, the Europeans found a way around the Cape of Good Hope. And they had taken technology, refined/improved/expanded it, and the Chinese system eventually couldn’t continue to cope with the combination of European pressure and internal stress.

    1. It was a large unified State with no real competition. Such states generally dislike change (especially among the Powers-That-Be).

      In Europe, many of the rulers likely disliked change as well, but they couldn’t afford to “fight” change within their own country because their rivals might overwhelm them.

      Of course, in Europe there was also (generally speaking) a unifying culture and a common language (Latin) among the educated class.

      Ideas spread quickly across national boundaries and nobody had the power to stop the spread.

      1. Even where there weren’t common languages change got forced on the European countries. A lot of the Eastern European countries were horribly messed up by being the buffer zone between the rest of Europe and one of the big more or less stagnant/static empires – the Balkans were the punching bag for the Ottoman and Austrian Empires, although the Austria Empire wasn’t nearly as stagnant as the Ottoman. Bulgaria and Romania got hammered between Hungary and the Ottomans.

        Then in the north east there was the beating between whichever germanics were talking to each other at the time, the Polish Lithuanian commonwealth while it lasted, and the Scandinavian nations in whatever configuration they were in at the time, all of them dealing with the Russian Empire – which was rather stagnant itself unless it happened to have a Western-leading Czar at the time.

        1. No argument there.

          China had periodic “barbarian invasions” but was big enough that the invasions were basically absorbed.

          The “barbarians” often replaced the upper “ruling class” but needed the existing “management classes” to rule China thus little actually changed.

      2. Japan succeeded in banning the gun because of its isolation (and its tyrannical imposition of the ban).

        1. Also because the Yakuza acts as a shadow government and dislikes the thought of guns among both its low level soldiers and the civilian population.

    2. China’s government seems to think they have things figured out right now.

      I’m confused, and I think I’m still supposed to be on vacation from forecasting politics.

      1. There is no where more dangerous to be than thinking you have everything figured out. Be you individual, group, or government.

        1. China’s government has adopted a policy of letting people make and (mostly) keep money while trying to lock out any outside influences. It’s very strained, but until people are willing to chance another round of Tienanmen Square with perhaps a bit more pushback, it’s likely to stay that way for a while.

          It says a lot about Asian cultures vs European cultures that the various European communist governments folded to mostly peaceful demonstrations where the Asian communists held on. I suspect it was really the difference between whether their militaries were willing to fire on their own people and for the most part the Europeans weren’t.

      2. people keep saying they are communist or ‘actually fascist’ or whatever… i think its all just the Mandarins under another name.

    3. Yes, China was static compared to Europe, but it wasn’t Pax Sinica for 2,000 years — think of the impact of the Mongols, Manchus, and Buddhists – and mores/morals went back and forth, too.

      Even today, there are definite regional differences.

      1. No argument here. I should have begun by saying that I was speaking in really sweeping generalities, and that regional differences and temporal differences do occur.

  2. An office I was in had two pictures looking up Denver’s 17th Street. The one taken in 1910 was all horses. The one taken in 1930 was all cars. That had to have been painful for a lot of folks. I’ve never previously wondered, but what happened to all the horses? A glut of glue?

    Smartphones didn’t really displace anything. Very few livelihoods were disrupted.

      1. I had forgotten about pagers! Almost before my time. I think cell phones mostly killed those off.

        Replacing one phone with another isn’t what I’d consider “displacement”. By that measure, Honda displaced Chevrolet, which is not untrue, but they are both still cars. I’ll admit it gets blurry. Amazon and Walmart killed Sears (which baffles me to this day; Amazon is just an online Sears catalog). Are they both just “stores”?

        I’ll definitely concede all the formerly independent digital doodads – including a lot of cameras. Film? What’s that?

        1. Sears shut down its catalog division just before Bezos started Amazon. That’s why Sears isn’t a giant Internet retailer now – it threw away the expertise that it might have used to become one.

  3. Right now, I’m sitting here trying not to move much. I broke my leg a little over 2 weeks ago, and – as I got the go-ahead to begin moving my ankle and putting some weight on it – I am in a lot of pain and am very uncomfortable.
    And, yet, the pain serves a purpose. The muscles are strengthening, the bone is developing more density, and – eventually – I will be back to normal.
    But, in the interim, I’m miserable.

  4. I’ve observed that people who try to avoid pain don’t realize that pain has a purpose; they’re only so focused on avoiding pain that they don’t want to figure out the why. This goes for both physical, emotional or spiritual pain. They have the most basic reaction for pain – pain = bad, harm, therefore, avoid at all cost. They eventually damage things worse than would’ve been, if they’d been willing to endure the pain and healed in the long run, versus making everything so they didn’t have to even risk pain.

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