Feeling no pain

Mostly, I’ve heard that phrase as another way to say that someone was drunk.  “He was feelin’ no pain,” someone will say, rolling his eyes meaningfully.  I want to use the phrase a little differently.  This will sound like a grammatical gripe, of which I am entirely capable, but it is not.

I want to consider here the difference between “feeling no pain” and “not feeling any pain.”  Following the wording carefully, we see that you are feeling something in the first formulation and you are not feeling something in the second.  That is the difference between feeling and not feeling.

So how can you feel something that is not there.  Pain, in this instance.  It’s not as hard as you might think.  How can you “find” anything not to be there?   How can you discover the absence of your favorite coffee mug from the shelf in the kitchen cabinet where it always is?  Well…you look with the expectation of finding it and you find it not to be there.

So let’s move away from the coffee mug.  You can experience the absence of anything you pain 1expect to find.  So, for instance, if I am accustomed to lower back pain as I get out of bed in the morning, what should I say about the morning when I start to get out of bed and am startled to discover that I am not feeling the lower back pain I was expecting to feel?  

I think it is perfectly proper to say that I am feeling—I am actually experiencing—no pain.  That requires, as I said in the first paragraph, that I feel something.  I expect, certainly, to feel something.  I sent my early sensors to the site “knowing” what they will find and they report that absence of what I knew I was going to feel.  That is why I feel justified in using the verb “feel” to describe it.

To tell you the truth, I have been puzzling over this “absence of pain” problem for awhile now.  It was only yesterday, on a bike ride, that I thought of the “feeling no pain” formulation.  That seems to have kick-started everything.  I wrote a piece a few years ago called “Names as Superchargers,” in which I reflected on the amazing burst of energy I get for a project once I think of what to call it.  I played around with my doctoral dissertation materials for awhile before the title “Undimensional Man” occurred to me. [1]  And once I had that name, I felt a lot of energy for the project.

That is what happened with this “feeling no pain” title.  I’ve experience the lack of pain recurrently for several months, but only when I thought of what to call it, did it become something I really needed to write about. [2]

[1]  It was a straightforward, and in the context of a campus in the 1970s, an unmistakeable reference to Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man.”

[2]  I know that’s a little quirky as a reason for doing anything, but this is the first post the my second decade with this blog (just how deep into the decade I will actually go remains to be seen, of course) and it has just the right flavor of dilettantishness.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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