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[For an audio/vlog version of this story, click here.]

No pain, no gain. The meaning of that proverb needs little explanation, expressed in various guises as it has been throughout the ages.

I can’t think of any success of note I’ve had — yes, I’ve had one or two — that didn’t come without some pain in one form or another, save for the odd win in gambling.

Without the pain, the pleasures are plain (and enslaving)

Seeking out some pain makes many feel more alive.

I must also state that the pain part in some of my bad romances came after I had savoured the initial *success*. Thus, I question the belief that ’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ I would have happily forgone the pleasure to avoid the resultant pain. A more apt expression in such scenarios is, ‘Easy come, easy go.’

Of course, another way to look at my relationship woes is that I wasn’t willing to put up with some constant pain for, perhaps, an overall gain in happiness. It depends on how one views such, um, affairs; this blog has analysed them from an array of angles over the years. One place to start is with Everlasting love and work your way back through the hyperlinks.

Pleb pain
On a broader scale, as any self-help guru keeping it real will tell you, life is suffering. Or, putting it in less depressing words, life is but a sea of melancholy, warmed up only sporadically by the odd drop of delight.

However, the modern conveniences and state-hung financial safety nets to which some people in certain parts of the world can rely on mean that the suffering in merely existing has been diluted to an extent.

Great that, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want less suffering in the world?

The issue here is that as a species, like any other, suffering and pain are meant to be part of living. It’s a default setting.

‘Outside of activism of abnegation, others find their wholesome pain in feats of physical and mental endurance.’

What some self-styled social democracies are trying to move towards is a citizenry devoid of everyday concerns. No real short-term financial issues, no hunger of note, everything made simple and safe.

‘Placate the plebs to the point where they won’t notice nor care that they”ve no real control over their affairs’, that’s the direction of travel. Impotent but content.

Think of us plebs as being well-fed domesticated dogs as opposed to the wiry wild ones roaming the African plains.

Yet, all the dog treats in the world won’t sate that desire to live on the wild side. It’s innate.

In rudimentary health
It’s why, although we may be more controlled than ever, some in our comfortable classes who haven’t yet become utterly disillusioned or been subdued completely seek out what I term wholesome pain to feel alive again.

Insofar as I can put myself into the comfortable-class cohort, my constant, somewhat self-inflicted pain is my attempt to maintain a minimalist lifestyle. I say somewhat self-inflicted because as things currently stand, and particularly in terms of high-income-nation living, without a steady income I have to be more minimalist than profligate anyway.

What’s more, I can’t say it’s that painful for me. I don’t mind shunning what I view as conveniences that others may think of as essentials to get by.

In fact, if we all had to take a more rudimentary approach to life — e.g. walk or cycle to get around, prepare our own meals from scratch, no home heating at the touch of a button, that kind of stuff — then few would have the time, means or even desire for a lot of the *wilder*, extreme pursuits we see today. Anyone up for the next Marathon des Sables?

These days, though, we don’t have to worry about the fundamentals of survival to the same extent as those who came before us.

Yes, I sound a bit like Steven Pinker here but in terms of health and wealth — happiness is much more debatable — the average adult human in this century is in a better position than his counterpart who lived just three or four generations ago.

Cold comforts
Hence the search for some pain to make us feel more deserving of the many low-hanging pleasures; pain to stoke the flames of a fire of life that normally just quietly smoulders away.

The more radical climate-crisis activists appear to want a universal return to the aforementioned rudimentary way of living. Pain to all mankind (I’m not sure about the non-binaries). The difference between most of them and me is that I try to do what I say, they preach, cause disruption and in the process anger others whilst doing little good.

Outside of this activism of abnegation, others find their wholesome pain in feats of physical and mental endurance, as alluded to earlier. A particularly popular one these days appears to be cold-water dipping (studies suggest it does have health benefits, up to a point in any case.)

So while our freedom is steadily disappearing in this surveillance society, we can still, within reason, pick our own pain for some sort of personal gain. Indeed, these days, freedom is pain. Freedom is suffering.
Listen to The Corrigan Cast podcast here.

Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan — The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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