On Pain

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses
your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its
heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

And could you keep your heart in wonder at the
daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem
less wondrous than your joy;

And you would accept the seasons of your heart,
even as you have always accepted the seasons that
pass over your fields.

And you would watch with serenity through the
winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.

It is the bitter potion by which the physician within
you heals your sick self.

Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy
in silence and tranquillity:

For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by
the tender hand of the Unseen,

And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has
been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has
moistened with His own sacred tears.


I was recently reminded of this poem by the Lebanese-American poet and artist, Kahlil Gibran.  He is one of the best read poets of all time, famous for his book The Prophet from which On Pain is taken.  Undoubtedly, this poem is stunning but is it helpful to those of us who suffer from chronic physical or mental pain? Is it inspirational or insulting? Gibran seems to say pain is an inevitable part of life (much like Buddhist philosophy) and we must try to see beauty beyond the suffering.  I’m not sure how realistic this approach is.  When one is imprisoned within a broken body or injured psyche how can one believe the pain will pass?  Do we really chose our pain?  I’m not at all sure….On the other hand to fight against the inevitable is a waste of energy and perhaps acceptance is the way out?  My reaction to this wonderful poem is  confused.  What do you think?



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