Posts Tagged ‘Pain’

Fear Fear Not Too Much

August 30, 2015

Fear! That gripping of the inner organs. Fear of past losses, now consumed, yet pain keep them alive to freshly torture anew. Fear of the future, assuredly all about getting weaker, sore, deformed, degenerate: “old man look at my life, I am a lot like you were”, sang Neil, Neil “Young” of all people. Aging: death, slow and cruel. Human life starts as a comedy, to end as a tragedy, alleviated by torpor. With pain always.

I walked up along a wild mountain torrent with my nephew, an innocent victim, and the higher we got, the fiercer the rushing waters were.
Sometimes the world is upside down with its own sense we cannot comprehend. Why would waters increase as we went up? It was not just the slope, other mysterious factors, elucidated since, were at work.
Finally a tributary, fiercely erupting down the mountains, gushing out of enormous glaciers far above, stopped our obdurate progression.
Oopss. Plenty Enough For An Honorable Death. I Thought, Therefore I Am Still Around.

Oopss. Plenty Enough For An Honorable Death. I Thought, Therefore I Am Still Around.

So much for the strategy of going around the difficulty by getting higher. And the night was falling, in the shade of giant peaks. My companion, suggesting engineering to cross nevertheless, started to drag huge tree trunks, in the apparent hope of somehow reaching the other side, be it only symbolically. The torrent swallowed one of them. Older, wiser, better read, and more measured, I recognized defeat, and that a long, ignominious retreat was preferable. Preferable to a desperate task, which could only end with death, flushed down the mountain, in ice-cold tons per second of liquid bricks. A guaranteed stupid death. Many an experienced mountaineer has died in mountain streams.

In Patagonia, one of the most beautiful peaks, Aiguille Poincenot, is named after a French guide who was swept by a stream during the first approach by mountaineers of the Fitz Roy range (his bereaved comrades succeeded the first ascent of Fitz Roy). I had close calls with raging mountain rivers at least twice before, once in France, once in Bolivia (where I got carried away for a few seconds).

Human philosophy is not just about accepting death, because we have no choice, anyway. Human wisdom is prone to redesign death as something milder, happening later, and with less pain.

The raging torrents blocking us, we had to accept retreat without any further loss of time. Only then could hope to go back to civilization, a road, with some vague daylight left.

Fear can be debilitating. When fear takes control of human beings, they can crawl, trembling, down a mountain side, shaking so much gripping the life saving holds becomes difficult.

Are great depression and suicidal moods a form of fear? Certainly so. Just as the mountaineer, shaking with fear, can lose grip, and thus life, so can everybody, unable to endure the pain, even the pain of fear, loses grip on one’s life.

Fear. Fear, not just of what will be, but fear of what could be. Existential fear. And why not? What will be is terrible: a personal apocalypse. Only imperial happiness can colonize it, and throw it, laughing, down the abyss.

Imperial happiness can colonize fear. Less noble passions can even abolish it entirely (Jihadists live off this). Thus the seduction the basest passions exert. The will to power, the urge to blood, mayhem, or silly, but all consuming adventures, such as so-called romance, or sex, are mighty medicines against fear.

Passions, in the instant, can erase a heavy heart… If they are overwhelming enough (otherwise, despondency does it). So there is more to war than happenstance, or a few deranged individuals. War is a way to escape fear, even pain. At least, for a while.

As he died, Socrates asked that a sacrifice be made, as if he had been cured from a disease. Did Socrates view life as a disease? How wise is that?

Life is a disease when one views it for what it seems: from some fun, to pain, handicaps, suffering, death.

The engineered equivalent of endo cannabinoids to make one forget about the incoming pain are all passions, strong enough to forge another universe where our actions reign supreme, as directed by us.

Yet, in the mountains, and elsewhere, fear can be a good adviser, a teacher and friend. Fear teaches self-reliance, and the will to power. Experiments show that, if, to get food, a rat has to go through a particular pain, it stresses out much less when it is the one to decide when to administer the pain.

We have to learn to live along fear, as if it were a friend. We have to learn to live happily, not just in spite of pain, but because of pain.

Nietzsche wanted us to mysteriously love the “eternal return of the same”. As if there was such a thing. Instead we have to embrace the eternal return of the universe, never quite the same, complete with fear, and pain, and how to dominate them, with happy self-reliance, as much as we can in all ways, most of them spiritual and intellectual. Not the least because we, and our entourage, will feel better that way.

Fear ought to be used as a passport to a better world. That’s why many dangerous sports blossom. And that’s why we did not try to cross that torrent.

Oh Humanity, hear!
Pain, suffering, dread and fear,
Do not neglect them, horrors,
Often, they are teachers,
Mean, cruel, pitiless, atrocious,
Yes. But what else?
How else to be dragged to spurn,
The gravest errors and worst moods?
Ultimately cruel, fear and pain can be,
Yet all too often, ultimately kind!

Fear Is A Spur,

Lest we be tortured by remorse,
Paralyzed by terror,

A pain without a life

Patrice Ayme’


Pain Is Relative, But Fishes Feel It

February 5, 2015

Armchair philosophers and ethologists are much to be feared. In Scientia Salon, Brian Key, a Professor of Developmental Neurobiology in the School of Biomedical Sciences, Head of the Brain Growth and Regeneration Lab, University of Queensland, argued “Why fish (likely) don’t feel pain”.

I will retort that Brian’s thoughts flow from fishy philosophy.

The author uses neuro-anatomy to over-rule ethology. Instead I will start from ethology, starring some actors of the wilderness:

Very Long Horns, And Very Smart Brain

Very Long Horns, And Very Smart Brain

He starts poorly, by demonstrating wolves are not (likely) smart. Says he:

“Resisting anthropomorphic tendencies:

Grey wolves hunt as a pack. They carefully select their prey, and then perform a series of highly coordinated maneuvers as a team, in order to corral their target. Initially, each wolf maintains a safe working distance from other members of the pack as well as from their prey. They are relentless and seemingly strategic with an overall goal of driving the agitated prey towards one wolf. A cohesive group mentality emerges that portrays logic, intelligence and a willingness to achieve a common goal. Eventually one wolf comes close enough to lock its jaws on a rear leg of the prey, before wrestling it to the ground. The rest of the pack converges to share in the kill. There appears a purpose to their collective behavior that ensures a successful outcome.

But is everything as it seems? A team of international scientists from Spain and the U.S.A. has simulated the behavior of a hunting pack of wolves using very simple rules

Their computer models do not rely on high-level cognitive skills or sophisticated intra-pack social communication. The complex spatial dynamics of the hunting group emerges by having the computer-generated wolves obey simple inter-wolf and wolf-prey attractive/repulsive rules.”

This is, simply said, dumb.

Assuming animals are computer programs may work for humans, but it does not resist careful examination in the wild. I have seen snakes being smart.

Once, by accident, I prevented a very large wolf to kill his prey (long story). The wolf could have jumped on me. He was three meters away. It was sunset, high above timberline in the Alps, kilometers from the first road, hours away walking (I was running, of course).

We looked at each other. I could read the yellow eyes of the wolf, he looked as intelligent as a monkey (not at all dull and agitated like a dog would have been in such circumstances). His eyes were saying: ‘What is a human being doing up here at this hour? What the hell! What is this world coming to? And now what?’

His purported dinner, a chamois, had passed at a high clip, within centimeters of me, going the other way.

It was a magnificent animal, all red, long hair all standing up, with face at least twice wider than a large dog. He was neither panicked nor upset, once the initial surprise was passed. He did not threaten me, and went his way (now the opposite of his initial way).

Anybody who has interacted with fishes know that they behave as if they experienced pain. Another objection: (some) fishes can act in a very clever way. Pain is a big help for intelligence. It’s a more economical hypothesis. Consider:

Anti-anthropomorphism sounds scientific, but it is actually a contrived hypothesis, insisting, with the Bible, that man is special. Instead of just an animal.

Once I was in an African National Park. I saw a large antelope (Hypotragus Equinuus), obviously in a panic, dash down a twenty foot embankment, on the other side of a wide river. He landed on the 200 foot wide beach, separated from the river itself by dunes… A large lioness followed down the embankment. Then the lioness took a hard left, from my perspective, instead of following her prey, she went ninety degrees! She went full speed for 400 meters or so, and then angled through the field of dunes, along the river, which was much wider there. Meanwhile the antelope, seeing the lioness was not in hot pursuit, had slowed down. But he was confronted to a new problem: a wide river, full of crocodiles.

From my vantage point, I could see at least a hundred trunks floating in the river, each one a croc. The antelope trotted upstream, knowing full well that to swim across meant certain death. Soon it saw the solution in the distance: shallow rapids. He accelerated. By then the lioness was in ambush near the top of the large last dune dominating the narrows.

The antelope arrived at a very brisk pace, scanning ahead to figure out the optimal point. He was obviously doing some fast thinking on the hoof. The lioness was crouched, observing just saw within the grass hidden by the very top of the dune, which she had craftily put between herself and the direction she knew her prey would come from.

I screamed.

The two beasts sprang into action. The antelope understood that there was an ambush, and bounded in an enormous effort, taking a dangerous short-cut. At the same time, realizing apes were foiling her plan, as apes tend to do, the lioness also charged.

She missed.

The antelope climbed on our side of the river, still pursued by the lioness, who took the time to throw us a very dirty look.

This was not my only encounter with very clever wild animals.

I have encountered lions many times. Lions in good standing resist hunting instinct and pangs of hunger, and don’t attack human beings.

Once I was diving as a child in Africa, spear in hand. I caught a lobster. However the critter screamed in such a heart breaking fashion, I did not renew the experience. Another time, I had caught an octopus, and, although mostly dead and hopeless, it made a point to bite me in protest. Yes, it was clearly a protest, because the creature looked dead, and I was inflicting pain at it, at that particular point. (Meanwhile experiences with octopuses have shown that they are extremely clever, and perfectly capable of the sort of reasoning I imputed them; as a species they are limited with very short lifespans and no possibility to transmit culture.)

So animals have feelings and emotions. If we directly interact with them, it’s blatant.

Brian Key uses poor ethology: he claims fishes fight when hooked in a way that show they don’t feel pain. Whereas trapped bears do (because they stop fighting after a while, when trapped). Actually fishes stop fighting after a while.

Then Brian proceeds to say that sometimes human beings don’t feel pain. Once again, anybody who has lived in the wild knows this is true.

Once a famous solo sailor got his foot torn off. He kept doing what he needed to do to stabilize the situation on his boat that had caused him to lose his foot. He stopped the blood loss. He called for rescue. He secured his boat. Once rescue arrived, he felt the pain.

Anybody who has been outside, broke ribs, arms, lost lots of skin, got injected a lot of painful venom, got burned third degree (all of those personal experiences) knows well that pain is felt only when it is advantageous, or safe, to do so. Bleeding experienced rock climbers will calmly exert maximal pressure on the rock, even when they have no more skin, just where they have no more skin… And barely feel it.

Pain is a relative thing, and evolution has gifted us with strong overrides (for example endorphins).

A fortiori so it is, with fishes.

Patrice Ayme’

Unbelievable Comfort: NO BRAIN, NO PAIN

June 1, 2014

Madness Of The Crowds: Comfortable, Cuddly, Yet Also Experimentally Useful.

In brief: Why do people “believe”? Superstitious religions are tools of oppression. They impose the unbelievable, making the masses stupid and gullible. If so why do they still seduce people? The charitable explanation, is that they offer hope: be nice to Moloch, and Moloch shall give you everything.

But is that all? No. The main reason (for higher-ups) to believe the unbelievable, is that it introduces a simplification of the mental system. It forces a hierarchy of causality that denies whatever contradicts the religion. That means, of course, that it denies most of the world. So the world goes poof. Is not that great?

Baal Temple, Syria: Yesterday’s God, Today’s Lord Of The Flies

Baal Temple, Syria: Yesterday’s God, Today’s Lord Of The Flies

[Ba‘al dhubaab: in Arabic, “Lord of the Flies”, that is, Lord of Dung, a rich idea coming from the Jews, two millennia earlier! Someday soon the Abrahamic religion will also be seen as a pile of dung to join Beelzebub.]

Superstitious systems of thought occupy a double-faced position in the jungle of ideas. On one end of the spectrum, they are a simplification, a laziness, a creature’s comfort, a herd phenomenon.

On the other end, being a simplification, precisely, they allow to experiment more cleanly with new systems of thought. For example, Christianism imposed murderous altruism: an interesting experiment.



A young mother, who does not even look Sudanese, was raised an Orthodox Christian (her Muslim father was in absentia). Later she married a Christian Sudanese. Some Muslim then accused her of adultery (if a Muslim woman has sex with a non-Muslim, she is committing adultery, says that religion).

While she was waiting for another child, Sudanese authorities decided that she had renounced Islam.

Renouncing Islam is a capital crime in Sharia, a set of “laws” (of the jungle) invented by Muslims a few generations after the Qur’an, the book of eternal peace, 5 feet under.

Sharia is the law in Sudan. So the 27 year old mother was condemned by a so called “judge”, to be whipped 100 times, before being hanged to death. No doubt the “judge” had some prurient interest. (Sudan’s president there is under an international arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court. I propose to arrest the “judge” too.)

Chris Snuggs a rather fierce participant to this site wrote: “Islam in many countries is a hideous barbarity, the ultimate manifestation of unhinged minds. Perverted “religions” of this kind are the most staggering example of mass-hysteria the world has ever seen, and peculiar to Homo Sapiens. No “ordinary” animals suffer from this kind of mass simultaneous mental illness. Three billion people need psychiatric help. Astonishing. Why are we prone to mass-hysteria and irrationality on this scale? The French people regularly voting socialist is another example, and of course reminds us of the definition of a lunatic: someone who does the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.”

Renounce Islam, Die: Does Sharia Hate Islam?

Renounce Islam, Die: Does Sharia Hate Islam?

[This is the wedding picture of the woman who got condemned to death for marrying the Christian on the left. Is Islamophobia truly Homophilia?]

By “belief, and believers” one commonly means “deciding to believe in the unbelievable, because it’s so convenient”. “Belief” is commonly believed to be an acquired taste at best, an imposed violence at worst.

Nietzsche pointed out about Christianism, Voltaire, about Islam, or Marx, in general, that religion is the opium of the people, or something to make the people into a herd.

More generally, theocracy has been used as a weapon of terror, for the oppression of all sorts of peoples.  The Aztecs captured their enemies alive, and then sacrificed them, opening them up, and tearing out their beating hearts. Before cutting them up, and throwing the proteins down the steep pyramids.

This robust religion kept peoples subjected. However, when Cortez showed up with 2,000 super warriors, those the Aztecs terrorized were enthusiastic to levee huge armies to help the Spaniards with the Hummingbird God.

Christianism and Islam do not basically differ from the Aztec gig. The Aztecs brought death through cannibalism. But it was a rather quick death. The Aztecs were horrified by the tortures of the Spaniards. Those knew no bounds. If Spanish tortures were so advanced that was, no doubt, to keep up with the Muslims, and beat them on their own torturous ground.

In Islam, slavery is kosher. All men are viewed as slaves of dog (typo, sorry!) god. A standard punishment for Muslim slaves who had tried to escape was impalement. As the patient could take several days to jerk about, all transpierced, that procedure had an educative effect on the otherwise ignorant masses.

Violence is intrinsic to the Abrahamic religion. It all started with the Bible, a compendium of holocausts, praising an holocaust driven god. Getting advice and example from the Bible allowed Europeans, clutching their bibles, to massacre the Americas, and much of Eurasia and Oceania.

Now religious fanaticism is less of a problem than a distraction, as the secular, republican spirit mostly rules, except in a few places: Israel, some places in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, where old fashion Islam is gaining ground.

Does that mean we are getting rid of the COMFORTABLY UNBELIEVABLE?

No. Why?



Because having unbelievable beliefs brings mental economy, and ties that bind. What could go wrong?

Let me explain a bit more: intelligence is highly profitable, but it’s also costly. To become intelligent, one has to create lots of neurons and synapses. And the environment does it: studies on rats have proven this. Long ago.

All these neurons and synapses require a lot of energy to build. That’s exhausting: one has to go hunt and gather a lot. Also, once built, all this awareness brings pain: many a religion and philosophy have moaned about extinction (“nirvana”) of consciousness as the solution to the problem of pain (how that differs from Hitler’s solution beats me).

From there springs the opium of the people effect: opium creates an absence of mind by putting many neurons to sleep, but it’s the same result, even more efficiently, by making sure none of these neurons is ever born.

Finally, last, but not least, as the religion simplifies the system of thought, it creates a simple system of thought, and a simple brain. A simple type of a specific brain. Those are easy to match to each other. All those who believe some guy is the son of dog, chose to be crucified for man, and taught us love, are, clearly, made for each other. They have an insanity to share.

There is nothing more reassuring than the herd. And a crazy herd, charging all along, is the ultimate symbol of force, thus, safety.



My spouse had a friend for a few years, and even travelled overseas with her. She was, superficially well educated. As all would-be shock philosopher, I tend to stay apart. Yet, in the end, we met. It was rather brief.

She was from Morocco. I know Morocco, first time I was there I was two years old. I mentioned in passing that this beautiful country was graced with Roman monuments. She mumbled something to the effect that Europeans could never resist invading Muslim countries. I pointed out that the Romans were in Morocco nine centuries before the Muslims ever invaded the place. Her face went white. She told us Morocco had always been Muslim.  We were basically insulting her country.

I said: not so. I told the truth. Her world, her simple world full of simplifying lies that bind, was shattered.  I was not just demolishing her world view, but her social fabric, made of victimized conservative Muslims invaded by greedy Romans.

She did not contact us ever again.

I am never the one to interrupt relationships, because I view even the worst relationships as interesting experiments in my philosophical laboratory… That has led me to harrowing situations, because insuring the integrity of their mental systems brings up the greatest ferocity in human beings.

Such is the human condition.


That ferocity in things mental may look baffling. But it is of the essence. Homo is the intellectual animal. Human ideas compete, and they compete to death. Inferior ideas get killed. Superior ideas thrive, munching the bones of past guesses.

Lovers of the free market gloat that it can produce superior product. Bu there is no product higher than an idea. And the ideas do not just constitute a market. They constitute a jungle, where pain, greed, anger, rage, ecstasy and lust are just ways to achieve a healthy jungle.



Although I focused mainly on the Abrahamic religion above, the situation is general. Stupidity binds.

An example is indeed presently provided by socialism, the old fashioned way, complete with a plethora of useless civil servants and assisted ones (as Chris fulminates).

An other excellent mania of the crowds is found in physics, where completely insane theories have progressed in recent years ( for example the Multiverse madness).

By this, I mean more than physics became more insane than any of the preceding. Yet, precisely because it presents the neurological advantages of insanity, the insanity in physics has been progressing. A delicate moment.

That’s progress, how progress works.

When physicists have gone completely insane, hopefully someone will point out reason, and be believed (it took more than a millennium, between Ptolemy and Buridan, though!)

Folly expands, occupies all space, reason follows, and sweeps behind. That’s how intelligence progresses: even the mania of crowds can be put to work.

Whether it’s painful or not, is irrelevant. The fundamental constructive naturally occurring software, the fundamental principle, of man is not pain, but intelligence.

Patrice Aymé

PAIN & PASSION For Balanced Mental Diet?

April 18, 2014

Today Christians celebrate the suffering of Christ (that’s what “passion” means; the word was more or less created for this, the suffering of Christ, in 12C France). Why?

Are Christians celebrating suffering in general, or the gift the Son of God supposedly made to them by consenting to suffer too? Or both?

If suffering is celebrated, what for? Because it brings good things, or because it is, per se, a good thing? Or is suffering celebrated because it is central to the human condition? Then, refusing suffering would be to refuse the human condition itself.

Pope Gets Down To Business

Pope Gets Down To Business

A specialist of Buddhism, Philip Short, author of several best seller scholarly books, told me, in connection with explaining the holocaust in Cambodia, that, by spiting pain, Buddhism made people more indifferent to suffering… And thus more tolerant of suffering, and of those, or what, the systems of thoughts and emotions, that inflict it.

Certainly Christians make a show of regretting the suffering of Christ, while revering the fact that, supposedly, he died for us. While Islam is rather gross in comparison, by revering “Jihad” (Holy war or holy war-like effort), Christianism is more subtle: it celebrates those who die for us in horrible suffering, just to obey their “Father”. (Implicit message, same as in Islam, where it is explicit (S 4, v 56): obey Your Lord, the one in the big castle on the hill, as ordained by God.)

In any case, if more than half of the planet is of a mentality inspired by Christianism or Islamism (including yours truly), it’s no doubt because both these religions view suffering as a good thing, sometimes, in their core doctrine. That reflectsthe human condition better. Whereas Buddhism, once upon a time a state religion in much of Asia, and all of India, was wiped out nearly everywhere (even Japan, where Shintoism was the official state religion).

The problem with Buddhism? It’ s too condemning of pain and suffering. The beast has to be tough, to be the beast.

Beasts manage pain, like anything else, because biological evolution manages everything, or, at least, used to manage everything, until our forebear, Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis, decided to burn coal in France, 73,000 years ago.

Pleasure one craves for, and pain, one avoids. That’s first order. In second order, evolution found out that sometimes one had to crave for pain. Thus pain became pleasure, on a more meta level.

A good example is the totally typical scene of the wildebeest (gnou) being eaten, slowly, by the hyena, guts ballooning out. Why would evolution want that the live dinner be drenched by endorphins, and thus not to suffer too much? Why would Evolution be a good and tender god? Why would evolution care? Well, Evolution cares about the predator being around to eat another wildebeest the following week. Thus Evolution cares about the wildebeest not hurting too much the hyena. Predators are fragile, precious: violence is a delicate behavior to live from, the prey’s cooperation is essential.

If they can, predators avoid risk, and will not even risk killing their prey, if they can have their cake, and eat it.

It’s pretty obvious that efforts bring suffering, but that, often, without efforts, or danger, there would be even more suffering. So one would expect that evolution would have prepared mechanisms that make suffering, and danger, to be perceived, somehow as pleasant, when they are obviously deemed to be important.

What morality to bring out of that? Suffering is not absolute. It’s relative, relative to the causality at hand. And the causality around the corner. Suffering for the good, or a greater cause, can be excellent. That’s one indirect message contained in the Passion of Christ.

And a warning beckons: humanity has a propensity to suffering, and not just as an inclination, but as something necessary for a fully balanced mind. It’s not just that “great” leaders want to hurt others. They do this, in part because they want themselves to hurt.

Could it be that suffering brings happiness? If suffering comes from physical exercise, it certainly brings endorphins! In this case, suffering is directly alleviated by neurohormones. But more generally, a tough condition, especially when it bring despair, completely transforms common existence: instead of being perceived as dreadful, the simplest thing become delectable.

Say you are stuck on a mountain, hanging in a harness, with not even a ledge to rest on, in winter at night with insufficient clothing, no food nor drink (one of my specialties). A return to simple flat ground will be perceived as paradise.

So paradise is easy to muster: just go about, suffering big time, and then return to normality (with luck). This is the attraction of extreme sports. But also war.

Humanity has evolved over several million years. Several millions years of happiness, but also pain and suffering. Can one go without the other? So, when John Lennon screamed that “when you talk  about destruction, you can count me out” (in his anti-revolutionary song, “Revolution”), was he unwise and unbalanced?

Proper mental ecology has more important things to worry about, than destruction, pain and suffering, says Evolution.

Certainly, stupidity is something more inhuman, than suffering itself, in which one can easily have all of humanity fall into, during these oligarchic times.

Today a famous novelist also died. Gabriel Garcia Marquez observed that: “Most critics don’t realize that a novel like One Hundred Years of Solitude is a bit of a joke, full of signals to close friends; and so, with some pre-ordained right to pontificate they take on the responsibility of decoding the book and risk making terrible fools of themselves.”

Indeed, although novels are jokes, life is not a joke. Or then it’s a pretty good one. And also a pretty insufferable one. Fiction is a genre much honored. But who needs fiction, when one has reality? Is not fiction reality light?

Accept the pain, it’s the human thing to do.

Patrice Aymé


[Note: The preceding used in passing a Lamarckian (new semantics!) evolutionary mechanism. The evolution of pain mitigation appeared as a “smart” overall ecological system selections: herbivores too hard to eat were deselected by ecological system collapse. So Masochism is evolutionary advantageous from the point of view of entire ecology survival.]