The Pain Game: The Game of Pain


This is dedicated to increasing our capacity to be in a conscious conversation concerning pain itself, perhaps even to cultivate some curiosity about pain.  By reading what follows you will be developing a capacity to engage in a dialogue concerning one of the most important topics you will ever have to deal with.  Some things cannot be approached head on and pain is definitely one of these strange topics that must be approached indirectly.

A game begins when something is considered to be more important than something else. This is the birth of a value.  There are obviously many, many games to play; many ways of re-valuating life, but to be in a game is to agree to the valuation of what is more important than what, it is an agreement to live in a certain way and constitutes a way of life.  Nietzsche is still trying to tell us that all our highest values will ultimately devaluate themselves.  He calls this the re-valuation of all values.  The death of God is his example of the failure of our highest value thus far to inspire life to overcome itself.  We do not worship (believe in, value highly) god and thus god dies of lack, of want of attention, we starved god to death by failing to believe.  In the beginning the word was God.  Now ‘god’ is just a word.  The original (long forgotten) meaning of our word ‘god’ is “to call or invoke” (see for reference.)  It was that by which we gave our word.  Giving our word really doesn’t mean all that much to us any more.  Talk has become cheapened.  We no longer believe in the creative power of our own words.  Now we use our words to explain rather than create.  The world is already created, we just need good explanations.

To believe is to invest energy in a word.  That which makes these investments is our self, or our will or our self will.  To will is to invest with value.  For the most part the will is a bad investor.  We obviously invest ourselves in words we don’t enjoy being invested in.  Then we pretend we didn’t make the investment, while we spend our time worrying about our portfolios.   I attribute high value to this word ‘belief’ and consider the game of believing to be of immense importance and well worth studying. Our word ‘believe’ is one of my favorite words. Its root meaning is “to care, to desire or to love,” it has the same root as two other high value words words: one is ‘love’ the other is ‘libido’.  We libidinize what we love.  To believe is to invest with the energy of importance.  We libidinize sex of course, but we also libidinize food and relationship and everything that we care for and about.  It is easy to see what we are invested in because it is that which stands out for us.  Everything that ex-ists exists (stands out) because we are invested in it.  That which matters, materializes because we are invested in it.  When I was drinking; alcohol and places to drink it and time to drink it, and money to buy it, and people to drink it with, things like this stood out for me.  Now I occasionally notice the beer cooler at the bodega and it is kind of like noticing “Oh, they are still making that stuff.”  I am no longer invested in the substance alcohol, though I never get tired of studying the ‘ism’.

As an under earner I play a different game and get a different set of things to stand-out for me: like ‘things I can’t afford’ or ‘reasons why I worry about money’.

We inherited most of our games just from being in our family and culture and time.  About these inherited games we are not conscious of our participation in the valuation process.  It just seems to be better to be smart than to be stupid, better to be successful than to fail.  We so deeply inherited these valuations that we can hardly get at them as constructs.  They appear to be true.  The science/art of phenomenology seeks to drill down into the games of life to reveal these (seeming) bedrock values.  The game of deconstruction seeks to play with these valuations until we become aware that we are the magical power beneath the rocks.

Deconstruction begins by identifying these value dualities (like ‘rich and poor’ or ‘fat and thin’) and speaks of the preferred value as the dominant one. A deconstructor could say that in the pleasure principle–pleasure dominates pain.  The process of deconstruction would begin by inverting the current valuation by considering the possibility that pleasure is not all that much better, pain can be shone to have some hidden benefits and it might even turn out that pain is in fact the superior value of the pair.  The process of deconstruction would end up re-defining pleasure as a special instance of pain, as a peculiar form of suffering.

Since life is ultimately devoid of meaning (almost) any dualistic structure can be deconstructed. In our time many profound structures are being consciously deconstructed: things like gender structures or racial structures or religious and economic structures are beginning to give way to the still mysterious process of deconstruction. This is often unsettling for the people still participating in the game (still believing in the valuation) but it is no longer obviously true that men are superior to women or that Caucasians are superior to African Americans and most of us now share the valuation that these are good developments.

Yet we still believe that pleasure is more important than pain. 

Only as the pleasure principle is deconstructed will we begin to realize how much we have suffered from it, and what our pursuit of pleasure has been concealing from us.

I am committed to the deconstruction of the pleasure principle.

(Originally Posted March 3, 2013)