The Road is Not Easy (and Nor Should It Be) / A Meditation on Pain.

To be human, and to live a human life is to be, (at least in part) almost continually beset by: pain, hardship, and obstacles.

Strangely, far from being the despicable and discouraging news that this, on the surface, appears to be; I believe that this is not necessarily a bad thing….

In fact, I believe: pain and obstacles can be a great impetus to our continuing growth and evolution.  And furthermore: that a life lived without them would be largely useless and benign; bereft of much of the merit gleaned and accrued from the full gamut of human experience.

But (and here is the kicker), without the correct approach to these things, without the correct guiding idea, we can all too easily spiral down into a dark pit of: victimhood, learned helplessness, and general malaise.

How can I possibly prove all this?  Why am I even talking about it?  And what is this ‘guiding idea’ that will set us all aright with the world?

You know, as capricious chance would have it, I have fortuitously prepared an answer to these very questions. 😉

Shall we dance?…

photo

Oftentimes, in the human condition there is pain.  Whether it be: individual, collective, physical, emotional, economical, sociological, or scatalogical; sometimes there are obstacles, sometimes there are hardships.  Sometimes, things just don’t go the way we think they should.

On the surface, it may seem that it would be way easier and much more pleasurable, (in the short term at least) if our every wish and inclination were to simply pop into being, without any kind of testing or hardship.  But, let’s be honest for a moment here.  If this was in fact the case, the world would, in all likelihood be: twisted, malformed, ash-blackened and scorch-fucked beyond any and all semblance of reason or doubt.

Conversely, the idea that: pain can be a necessary, vital, even useful part of life does not seem, at first glance, to be in any way: attractive, pleasant, logical or desirable.  I mean, pain is simply bad, right?

Well…

What if: pain, resistance, hardship and obstacles of all colours and stripes were oftentimes necessary and vital for our continued growth and evolution, both individually and as a species?  What if, in order to grow and evolve, we needed to push against our limits, overcome resistance, and fully immerse ourselves in the process of: transcending, transmuting and overcoming said hardships, pain, and obstacles?

If that were in fact the case, wouldn’t it change, not only how you viewed these things, but also how you responded to them?

For a moment, cast an eye back over your life.  Chances are, you will see that: your greatest periods of growth, your greatest achievements were, oftentimes: conceived, birthed and nursemaided from the deepest and blackest pits of your despair.  That which appeared at first an unthinkable tragedy, now seems a blessing, wrought in heavy disguise.

Of course, this is all very easy to say.  It is most always easier to talk theoretically.  It’s a little harder to deploy this idea whilst you’re under fire, in the fray, and fighting for your life from the dark and muddy trenches of pain and despair.  But it is not impossible.  The first step is always a new and better idea.

I have written previously about the importance of upgrading your guiding ideas and personal philosophy.  Succintly put: I believe that better, and more evolved ideas, result in a better, more evolved, and generally happier life.  And nowhere is this more true than in this case.  Why?  Well, partly because pain is a universal part of the human experience.  So the way in which we choose to understand and respond to it, has a major influence on the direction of our lives.  This choice, while seemingly small, is like an Archimedes lever.  Very simple, but at the same time, potentially world-shifting.

The Story Behind This Post…

This week I have experienced a lot of severe toothache.  There have been two trips to my dentist.  Much sleep has been lost.

Originally, this post was about a wildly different topic but, given the circumstances in which I found myself, this seemed a lot more timely.

Hope you are well,

– J


My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist.  If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music.  Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.

Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things.  If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.

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And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter:

115 Comments

  1. You coulndn´t be more right on this James. I have a saying that a life without hardship is a life not lived. If I encounter a person that hasn´t gone through hardships in his or her own life I´ll be the one to give them a hard time and wake them up.

    Like

    1. Well said Sir, I couldn’t agree more.
      I used to rock climb a lot, and one of my friends used to say: ‘If you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough’. 😉
      I hope you are well,
      – J

      Like

      1. Your friend was right, although rock climbing and falling…a bit heavy stuff, rather not fall on that one, haha. Yep, life is about failure and coping with it and overcoming it. Not only as a mere common man, but I guarantee you that all those rich successful people have had at one point or the other in their life at least one big failure, but those type of personalities turn that failure into a positive or at least won´t make the same mistake again. I don´t know why people hate rich people…….hell, if they are rich they did something right with their choices that´s for sure.

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        1. Totally agree. 😉
          Also, I think that people that look successful have probably just failed a shedload more than people that aren’t. “Your dreams wait for you at the top of the mountain built of failure”.
          I said that. 😉
          – J
          P.S. Thanks for stopping by – made me happy. Hope you’re having a great day.

          Like

          1. My pleasure to stop by J, always interesting things you have. You know how it is, would like to stop by everybody´s blog everyday, just need to change the number of number of hours the day has and double them.

            Stay Frosty my friend.

            Like

  2. Yes the task is to try not to push pain away, welcome it, and if, like me you find that incredibly difficult, then maybe try it this way; try not to prefer one thing over another i.e. pleasure over pain, or happiness over sadness. Choose to make the unwanted wanted.

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  3. I just finished reading C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain. It was a fascinating read albeit a Christian perspective. It did help me grow in my understanding of what abs why pain exists. You’re definitely onto something here, James. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I listened to your song/ video River… It totally sucked me in, so I’m looking forward to hear more of you. ❤ ~Keely

    Like

    1. Thanks a lot, Keely, that is really quite cool of you to say – makes me happy in my feels. 😉
      I am glad you liked both – and I will totally check out ‘The Problem of Pain’, danke for the point sounds super interesting.
      And I definitely like your blog, so keep up the awesome, you 😉
      Have a great day,
      – J

      Like

  4. Happy Birthday James! I loved reading your post. Sometimes we have to experience pain in order to enjoy and be grateful for the pleasures that life can bring. I am sorry to hear about your toothache, I can definitely relate. I have found that clove oil, or crushed cloves are good to relieve toothache pain. I have had to use cloves many times.
    I hope your birthday is filled with peace, love and bliss!

    Like

    1. Hey there,
      Thankyou so much, that is really kind – especially the advice about toothache.
      Fortunately, all is now well in my dental world. 😉
      I am so glad you liked the post, and thankyou for taking the time to post a comment – it means a lot to me.
      Have a great day!
      -J 😉

      Like

  5. Hey James, thanks for stopping by to read the new post. Great one here, keep up the good work. I clicked the link to your music, as i’ve never heard it before, but I noticed there’s no preview / streaming option. I will have to check out youtube to listen to your music before deciding whether to purchase the album. Happy Birthday, I hope you have a wonderful celebration! Keep it up and keep in touch, take care!! – Z

    Like

    1. Hey there,
      First, thanks for you kind words, really appreciate them.
      Second, I keep playing with streaming / not streaming, so, depending on the day, the album may be streamable or not. I fully understand the need to try before you buy tho, so you can get a taste of the album here if you like:
      https://jamesradcliffe.com/gallery/
      (Fan made video of one of the album tracks.)
      Hope that helps, let me know what you think.
      Have a great day,
      – J

      Like

  6. I’m way late to the birthday party, James, but a belated Happy Birthday to you. I’ve always believed that late birthday wishes are an excuse to celebrate again. And again. For as long as those wishes come in. It’s good to see (through your comments) that things are better with you now in terms of pain (what a nice birthday gift!). This is a beautiful post. Not everyone learns this lesson, that pain can bring us joy. Thank you for visiting my blog so I could have the opportunity to visit you, and read your thoughts. 🙂

    Like

    1. Hey there,
      Thanks for this. This is a really cool little comment and it means a lot to me.
      I am really glad you liked the post – it was written from a genuine place, so it’s nice to know that it went over.
      And thanks for the birthday wishes, you made me smile. 😉
      Keep up the good work my friend,
      – J

      Like

  7. Hi James! Thanks for liking my post “She Touched Me!” which gave me the opportunity to learn of you. I enjoyed your post and I hope you feel better. Like you, I enjoy taking an analytical approach to every day life. So I can understand and agree with your analysis. Who is the happiest? Well I can say from personal experience that some of my best work has come out of overcoming and recognizing my challenges.
    After all, how else can we soar like the butterfly showing off our beauty touching this one here and that one over there unless we break through our struggle. Then and only then are we truly free to be!

    Happy belated birthday!
    K.L.

    Like

    1. Hi K.L.,
      Happy that you got something from the post. I pretty much completely agree with everything you wrote. 😉
      Thanks again, and you’re fully welcome for the like – Keep up the good work!
      – J

      Like

  8. James, I like your post very much. Your writing reminds me of Buddha’s view that life is suffering (dukkha) but that it can lead to Nirvana. Pain was very instrumental in my life in leading me to more productive living, and even to achievements. Thanks for the post and also for visiting my blog.

    Like

    1. Hey there,
      Thanks a lot for your very kind words. I am so glad that you liked the post, it was written from a very genuine place.
      Keep up the good work my friend, hope you are well. 😉
      – J

      Like

  9. Hi James, I am Danyealah and I am a young writer, blogger and poet. I really enjoyed reading this post. I agree with you that pain and suffering, although undeniably awful, can mold and shape us into better, more learned, more mature individuals. This is certainly true of my life – all of the times when I thought that I could no longer push on were the times when, in the end, my perseverance helped me grow. You’re a great writer. Really enjoyed this!

    Like

    1. Hey there Danyealah,
      Thanks a lot for this, and your kind words. I am really glad you liked the article. 😉
      I completely agree with you – the same is true of my life, the times that seemed the hardest, ended up giving me the most.
      Happy to meet you,
      – J

      Like

  10. I wouldn’t have guessed tooth pain, or even physical pain, brought about this post. There IS a weird kind of euphoria when pain or suffering end, almost (and I’m sticking with “almost”) making it worth it. I do believe we cognizant people go out of our way to make sense of our suffering and draw meaning from it, in part, because suffering for no damn good reason is so very unappealing to thinking people.

    Like

    1. Hey there,
      It is a strange thing isn’t it? I find your point of view really interesting. I am totally on the side of being able to draw true meaning and growth from unpleasant things – purely because, in my life, the lions share of my own growth has been painful or spurred on by pain. It’s a strange thing, but true nonetheless. They’re not called ‘growing pains’ for nothing. 😉
      Thankyou very much for taking the time to comment – I really appreciate it.
      Hope you are having a great day,
      – J

      Like

  11. (¯`v´¯ )
    .`•.¸.• ´
    ¸.•´¸.•´¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.. Happy “belated” Birthday!

    ♥ƸӜƷ♥●•٠Have a great year٠•●♥ƸӜƷ

    Xoxo~ Kay 😉

    Like

    1. Thanks a lot, Sindy,
      Dental issues are crazy, right? Luckily I am all healed up now. I wish you the best with yours – I can truly sympathise with you.
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Namaste,
      – J x

      Like

  12. Happy Birthday! Thank goodness that life is “unfair” because without that ultimate truth there would be no music, no poetry, no philosophy, and no gift-givers. Thank you for the beautiful gift.

    Like

  13. I am sorry, James, for your pain. Interested that you have a philosophical approach to it and can see the positive from it – walking from darkness into light. I also sympathise with Christian – kidney obstruction pain is said to be the worst in human suffering, once again his philosophy shows the swing on what he has learned from it. I wonder if you have read TH White’s Once and Future King? There is a wonderful quote – about sadness – which is just another manifestation of pain: “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake in the middle of the night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting”. You talk about pain as the other side of pleasure and it’s vitality in human experience. I hope you can take the inspiration of this experience forward into your music. Tony … Oh, and Happy Birthday!

    Like

    1. Tony,
      As ever, you are a man wise beyond your years. 😉 Thankyou for the quote, I find it to be quite beautiful, and true also (which always helps).
      “Once And Future King”, has been on my ‘to read’ list for a little while now, your quote has bumped it up considerably! Once I finish up the stuff I am into I will certainly give it a look.
      I also sympathize with Christian – I have heard the same thing about kidney stones, they do not sound pleasant at all.
      Thanks for stopping by my friend. And thanks for the birthday wishes – it turned out very well. 😉
      Best wishes to you and yours,
      – J

      Like

  14. Hi dear James, I wish you a belated VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY and hope you could enjoy the day despite your toothache. May you have a rich, interesting, long and fulfilling life full of music and love! …and yes I agree and keep learning (especially at present) some pain and hardship in life seems to be necessary to grow. All that happens has its reason although it sometimes is hard to understand right away. But after those dark times, one can appreciate the lighter and joyous moments even more…

    Like

    1. SCULPTRESS!!
      Hello! How are you? It feels like ages since we last spoke.
      Thankyou for your birthday wishes, they are most appreciated. I have to say that I completely agree with you, there does seem to be a balance, darkness, light, sadness, joy, all sides of the great coin. 😉
      You are beautiful, you know it!
      Big hug,
      – J

      Like

      1. …yes, quite some time has passed since we spoke, that´s true. Even though I do read all your posts with great interest, sometimes I just don´t have anything intelligent to say or comment haha ;-). I am ok although there are some rough patches at the moment …but I was fortunate to go on a quick “horsey” holiday which always lightens up my mood and gets my mind off all worries. The area where I went to is really beautiful and I took some nice pics. And gathered up some energy to go on with my project.

        Hope you have a great and produktive week 😉

        Like

        1. Beautiful Cris of the Nemeths, 😉
          I am glad that you took the time for yourself. I totally did the same thing and headed up into the highlands for a week.
          Horses are such beautiful creatures, you are a lucky girl. 😉
          Glad to be speaking again,
          Have a great day,
          – J x

          Like

  15. UGH JAMES I MISSED YOUR BIRTHDAY FOR GOODNESS SAKE WHY DID YOU NOT TELL ME! 😦 This wounds me. I hope you’re happy. But, in accordance to your post, shall I grow and develop from this? 😉

    Seriously though, I hope you had a good day. Did you? I hope you didn’t have toothache on your actual birthday. That wouldn’t have been fun. But, either way, I’m sure you would have spent it doing things you love.

    Much relating I can do with this post (that was a Yoda sentence). Very true words. Indeed, you can only grow out of the darkness, like flowers who grow in the night, reaching up for the light of the stars.

    Hope you’re well, sir, and your teeth are being kinder to you.
    Love Yeti x

    Like

    1. Beautiful Beautiful Yeti grrl,
      I am sorry that you are wounded. I did not mean to wound you. (Apologia)
      The day itself was a little sideways, but then I went north and spent a week climbing mountains in the highlands which was super incredibly awesome. This is also why you have not heard from me (no internet).
      Will send you mail soon.
      Big love,
      – J x
      P.S. Teeth are being very kind, Thankyou. 😉

      Like

  16. Well expressed. One without the other has no meaning, but too much of either can create an unacceptable situation.We need challenges, uncertainties, even failures..in moderation.

    Like

    1. Thanks very much for your kind thoughts.
      My birthday was a little sideways, as I had a visit to the dentist and was writing this post. But the week afterwords was awesome, as I was away, up in the highlands, in a place with no internet. 😉
      (Which is why my response is a little tardy – apologies.)
      Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by,
      – J

      Like

  17. Happiest of days to you, James ! Again, you give us something to ponder, and I love that there is never a dull moment in your bloggy space…

    Agree completely with your words, although your eloquence cannot be matched so I will not even try… Perspective is a beautiful thing, simply by spinning the kaleidoscope a bit, you can gain an entirely new focus !

    Sending healing thoughts your way and hope your pain and sleeplessness are now a thing of the past… be well ! =)

    Like

    1. Hey there, 😉
      Thanks for the healing thoughts, they must have worked, for I am now pain free.
      Sorry for the tardiness of my reply, I have been away in a place with no internet.
      I really appreciate your comment, and thankyou for your kind words.
      I wish you well,
      – J

      Like

      1. No worries ! =)

        I am in the midst of a 3 day insane cluster-fluff of a move… and will be without internet from tomorrow thru Thursday… I can see several hours spent at Starbucks, drinking the hot beverages and mooching the wi-fi… =)

        Like

          1. Thanks, I survived, but now an seriously questioning my decision to come here… as a total, freakin’ basket case tonight. =( Need some serious quality time on the yoga mat as well as the meditation mat…

            Have a beautiful night, James. =)

            Like

  18. As someone that lived with chronic pain for 5 years, I can’t really say I perceive physical pain as a good thing, and if I could do it over, I’d absolutely wish that pain away, but since I cannot, the best way I can look at it is that pain made me stronger, it showed me what I’m made of, and made me who I am today. It also gave me a much greater appreciation for the little things in life. Maybe having learned that lesson by the age of 22, I will be able to turn those 5 hellish years into a positive experience by living the rest of my life from here forward more fully.

    Like

    1. I really hope so. I am sorry that you have had so much pain, and I wish you well.
      It is amazing that you can, even in this short comment, take at least some positives away from the experience of it.
      I take my hat off to you.
      Thanks very much for stopping by, I wish you the best.
      – J

      Like

  19. (I posted a separate reply earlier, but the system has forced to re-log in and I don’t know if it got through, so I’m posting again)

    I don’t know if any of us are qualified to determine whether life is better or worse in terms of dealing with pain. Pain manifests in such different ways for all of us, and at times in our lives when we may not have gathered the knowledge or resources to know how to deal with it. But I’ll use physical pain to make a point.

    I experience chronic kidney stones. 29 thus far. You may or may not know of the pain of trying to pushy a spiked, solid object through soft organs designed only to carry liquids, but it doesn’t tickle. In fact, it’s the worst pain I’ve ever had to endure. Blinding, lose consciousness type of pain. The odd thing is, I’ve grown accustomed to it. No, I don’t think I’ll ever be inured against that kind of pain, but it is my choice to decide what the pain represents. I visualize that each object passed through is a physical manifestation of the incredible emotional, psychic, and psychological pain of my past. I am thankful when each episodes draws to a close (with a lot of help from the medical world and painkillers!), because I know that something that has brought me pain and grief in the past is no longer. The worse the pain, the larger that object. And once it’s gone, I know I will never have to pass through that particular pain from that specific incident from my past again.

    The pain of living is very similar. We choose to look at it as an excruciating process that we are only able to endure, or we figure out ways to recognize the signs and prepare for it, or we learn as we go how to deal with it. If we don’t, we only experience it again in a month or a year or five years down the road. There are those who have developed the defenses against letting the pain derail us, and those who have never been taught — by others or by life — how to deal and they believe they’re victims rather than students.

    I love this post, wise man. I bow to your wisdom.

    Like

    1. Christian, this is amazing.
      What an incredibly heartfelt and honest response. It is I who should bow to you Sir.
      I am very sorry for your personal pain. The choice you have made of how to deal with it is amazing to me, I deeply respect you for this. The choice to view pain in any way that is positive is, I think, the most courageous and bold choice we can make.
      I salute you sir, I really do. Well done. And keep on keeping on, we need more like you. 😉
      – J

      Like

  20. Not sure any of us can truly say with any certainty whose life would be better, because we each experience pain in such fundamentally different ways. As an example, I will use physical pain as a guiding idea. I experience chronic kidney stones. 29 of them thus far in life. You may or may not know the pain of passing a solid object through parts meant only to pass liquids, but I can assure you, it doesn’t tickle. They are the most pain I’ve ever experienced. But….I’ve grown used to them and know the signs of whence one is forming and/or trying to pass through me. Each of them has been a lesson I’ve learned, because they manifest in different ways every time. I believe my body has created a physical marker of the emotional, psychic and psychology pain forced onto me throughout my life. Each time I pass one, it’s another piece of the painful past being released from my soul. Our perception of the pain we encounter in life is a very similar entity. It manifests in different ways, and we treat each instance differently. Sometimes we learn from it, sometimes we don’t. But if the pain is big enough, the lesson is forced upon us whether we want it or not. Then it’s our choice to stare it down and learn its name, or we cower in the corner and wait for the next teacher to come along.

    Like

  21. You make me smile and stretch, beautiful soul! This is a brilliant piece. Your writing, like your music, is hypnotic and honest.

    There is much wisdom and strength in adopting a way of viewing the world in which we truly believe the universe is working on our behalf, whether she bestows pain or pleasure. And I agree with you, our views and thoughts on this are a choice, and those choices create our experience. I would call it building our spiritual muscle, by breaking us down and building us back up stronger than before, if that makes sense.

    We create these paradigms and thereby create our responses to them. Co-creation with the energy of the universe is the most grounding and expansive of teachers, no?

    I wish you a very happy birthday, sir James, and a lovely, gritty, inspired year ahead. Thank you as always, for taking us with you! 🙂

    Big love, kid. x

    Allison

    Like

    1. Allison, you are SO BEAUTIFUL. 😉
      Thanks so much for this, it is a perfect response. I love the parallel between muscle and spirit.
      I am very happy to know you. Keep on the good work of being awesome!
      – J x

      Like

  22. You’re onto something here. 🙂 The Buddha called it the First Noble Truth. My realization of it went like this:

    First Noble Truth: Life is suffering. But it’s not like that. it’s like: First Noble Truth: Life is suffering! Say it with joy. I mean it – it’s a joyous thing. Because once you get it, suddenly you understand – the suffering bits, why that’s what supposed to be there. That’s life – after all, remember – “life is suffering”. But then the joyous bits – those are completely bonus. Completely unexpected. Completely wonderful. Whereas if you go around thinking all the time that life is joyous – well, you start fixating on all the non-joyous parts as being unexpected, unfair. And that’s not it at all. Life is suffering! The joyous bits – lunch out in the park today by the fountain . . . the trees in the park when I cross the street . . . those are completely amazing.

    Like

    1. I find this to be a really beautiful response.
      Thankyou so much for your thoughts and words.
      I love it. And I love your writing. It’s good to see you, keep up the (very) good work,
      Have a great day,
      – J

      Like

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