Monday, August 31, 2009

The Beer Philosophers #1

(A series featuring two college guys stacking up their understanding of the universe in empty beer bottles. Have a beer. Loosen your tongue. It's good for the soul.)

"Have you got the hot nuts?"

"Dude, I was thinking."

"You've got to stop doing that. Unless it's about handing me the peanuts."

"I was thinking about pain."

"Really? I was thinking about pain too. Then, I burped."

"Dude, listen. Have you ever seen an animal in a trap?"

"A what?"

"An animal. Caught in a trap."

"Are we talking a live trap? A cage trap?"

"No. One of those nasty leg hold traps. You know. Snap! Foot nailed."

"Can you do that again? Your hand looks like a little Pacman."

"Exactly. A stainless steel Pacman."

"No. I've never seen one. Have you?"

"Well, not in person. Not for real. But on TV, maybe. I think. I don't know, who cares? My point is, what does the animal do? What do they do in the trap?"

"Well, I suppose they chew their leg off to free themselves. That's what they say, anyway. I have no idea if it's true."

"Exactly! They chew off their leg. Anything to escape."

"Yup. I guess."

"Do you suppose that hurts?"

"I would think it hurts like a motherfucker."

"Exactly! So, here we go. Imagine you had a scale. Put pain on one side and escape on the other. Which way does the scale tip?"

"The instinct to escape is stronger."

"Precisely. Now, what do you think a human would do?"

"Well, I certainly doubt many people could chew their leg off."

"I agree."

"But then again, there's that story about that trapped mountain climber who amputated a stuck limb with a rock."

"Okay. Okay. There are some tough fuckers who could do it. I'm sure. But I think most people would sit tight. If you sit still, it doesn't hurt nearly as much."

"Makes sense."

"My question is why?"

"Well. Let's see. Maybe they think they'll figure another way out. A painless way out."


"Or maybe they'll just wait and hope for the best. The trapper might not be such a bad guy. It could all be a mistake. They might talk their way into getting free."


"I could even see some people just pretending the whole thing isn't happening. Ostrich technique."

"So let's pull out the scale again. How does it shake out for humans?"

"Pain is stronger. A human avoids pain more than it needs to escape."

"Indeed. I think you're right. But does it make sense? What if some pain right now saves you a lot more pain later? Wouldn't you be better off to take the pain now? Chewing your leg off is better than ending up as the trim on somebody's fur coat. Yet, we don't do it."

"That's definitely true. We put off small things now and end up with much larger problems later."

"Which reminds me. I never rescheduled my dentist appointment."

"Better get on that."

"So, what I'm thinking is that humans tend to freeze in the presence of pain. Pain makes you hold still. It controls you. Especially if freezing is the only thing that takes the pain away."

"Okay. I think I see it. But what does it mean? Animals are better off?"

"I have no frigging idea what it means. But it's a terrible weakness. It can make us lambs. It can be used against us so easily."

"So what do we do about it?"

"Beats me. Thinking about it any more is too painful."

"I'm going to get another beer. Maybe you'll figure it out by the time I get back."

"Hey. Grab me one while you're up."

"Sometimes you're a pain in my ass."

"But it's better than escape."

"Huh. I'll get back to you on that."


Mona said...

Its more the fear of the unknown than the pain itself that makes one freeze. Also people have no idea whether going through that pain would be worthwhile later.

People who have invested their entire lives and efforts to be where they are cannot let go so easily, even if it mean bearing with the pain. Because there is no guarantee if cutting off that part of their life will lead to something better. So they keep bearing on.

Fear of the unknown freezes them..

Margaret said...

I'd say grit your teeth and face the pain.
It can save a lot of unnecessary pain and ache later.
I think our need to escape is stronger than our fear of pain. It's amazing what power & strength the human body can summon up in a moment of desperation. We're only weak until we HAVE to prove ourselves.

Aniket Thakkar said...

I always knew beer makes people smarter. This just proves it.

This reminded me of the basic concept behind the SAW movie series. When it comes to survival, we are capable of doing the most unimaginable things.

Sadly, if it isn't mortal danger, we avoid confrontation with pain and seek the easy way out. Only, in most cases, the easy way leads to bad destinations.

Charles Gramlich said...

Strong opening line! :)

Catherine Vibert said...

I love philosophical discussions like this one. Pain is useful for us you know? It helps us escape from things we don't really want to do. Oooops, can't go to work, got back pain.

Kurt Hendricks said...

Great idea for a series - I look forward to more.

In my experience, the pain we imagine we will experience is almost always worse than what we actually do experience.

And thanks for the reminder...I have to set up a dental appointment this morning.

PhilipH said...

Great piece. And I too have just had a letter reminding me to make an appointment for a dental checkup.

Only a masochist enjoys pain. Unless it's a matter of survival, when we might accept pain as a necessary evil.

Pain doesn't bother me as long as I'm sound asleep; don't wanna be there if I'm awake though!

Shadow said...

quite right. pain freezes. and holds us captive 'til we're ready to face it head on. great story!

Jean said...

'A human avoids pain more than it needs to escape.'

But, often the avoiding doesn't work, does it? Spouses staying in abusive situations and such. And, for some reason, some people think the pain of changing will be worse than staying. Fear paralyzes.

Hope those two continue their conversation. They could be on to something.

Anonymous said...

Mona, reminds me of the saying, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. I also wonder if fear of pain is worse than pain itself.

Margaret, I do think we often hit a wall when we're just so tired that we're ready to stroll right into the fire.

Aniket, I'm with you on the miraculous qualities of beer. ;) I think you're right. Only under the greatest duress, are we ready to move.

Charles, thanks!

Catvibe, now you're talking! Pain definitely has some usefulness.

Kurt, Mona's comment got me thinking about that too. Anticipated pain is probably the worst of all. It twists us so harshly.

PhilipH, ah, the dentist. I've had quite a close year with the dentist. I hope your appointment is a smooth one.

Shadow, I hope we all face it when we need to. And conquer it.

Jean, so so true. Avoiding it doesn't help. It just prolongs the pain. Lets it ferment and grow. A cycle often best broken.

the walking man said...

The reality of the situation flies in the face of the reality of the situation. If you are trapped the tendency is to figure out how you got trapped as opposed to freeing yourself from the trap.

Fear will do that to the captured.

Karen said...

I think it's true that man always hopes for something better, and often, we're taught from childhood just not to make trouble and things will be okay. You've captured so many truths here, Jason.

Anonymous said...

Walking Man, your comment really struck me. So much truth there. We twist ourselves with the "why," when we should be focusing on the "okay, what now."

Karen, yes, the conundrum of when things turn wrong. It just shouldn't be, should it? We fight the reality so severely.

PJD said...

Interesting observations couched in here. These guys are WAY too articulate for college beer swillers, though. Not one mention of boobs.

I also wonder if fear of pain is worse than pain itself.

Three words: Blair Witch Project. OK, one more: Alien. This is the premise on which horror movies--the really scary ones--and great thrillers are based. Pure gore and destruction don't create the same visceral reactions that we get from the threat of pain and destruction and loss.

If I might offer a constructive criticism: Your dialog reads a lot more like Calvin discussing with Hobbes than two beer swilling college guys. I think you should try a different pair, or perhaps vary it in your series. Unless you're trying to build the two characters over the course of the series. But it seems to me the mere act of selecting a stereotype of shallowness indicates that's not your goal so much as exploring the topics themselves. These two are merely your conduits. I hope I'm not being presumptuous in offering this observation...

Anonymous said...

PJD, yeah, these two really aren't believable. Basically, I wanted to put some musings out there without writing an essay. This is a total artifice. I didn't love the voices either, but if folks got a few insights or ideas out of it, I'm happy.

SzélsőFa said...

interesting conversation - I'd love to have one of those with one of my friends, too...
thought provoking writing (as per ususal) and useful comments!

PJD said...

...if folks got a few insights or ideas out of it, I'm happy.

Then you must be very happy because you got that in spades!

Sarah Hina said...

Pain probably does paralyze, especially when each direction you face presents a different manifestation of it.

But it's not just personal pain that must be considered. It's the pain we cause others, too. And that's when the equation seems the most confounding.

I liked this dialogue for the questions it sparked. And it was funny, too. :)

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, it's only a good drink and a soft chair away. :)

PJD, thanks. :)

Sarah, when I was young, I thought I would grow to be a person so clever and strong and engaged with the world around me that I would always stay two steps ahead of the grip of pain. But I was wrong. I didn't grow to be that person.