Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

If there’s one thing we are pretty sure about, it’s the primacy of our senses.

There’s something fundamental about our senses that seems to be so unalterable.

Take, for instance, getting shot.

(Woah, crazy escalation to an extreme example!   Sorry for that, I promise it will tie together a moment…)

We can also begin with the much more simple and common act of hitting our thumb with a hammer.

WHAM!  Hammer into thumb.  That’s gotta hurt.  A lot.

Is there any way that it couldn’t?  It’s our senses.  It’s nerve connections directly to our brain.  Is there anything that could possibly alter the experience of body parts being subjected to misapplied hammer mashing?

Turns out, yes.  Context can.

The context that we bring to the injury can alter how much it hurts.

An episode of Radiolab explores this through the research of a young World War 2 medic who noticed that soldiers consistently had very different levels of pain compared to people he had treated back home who had suffered similarly grievous injury.

Same kinds of injuries, different levels of pain.

Seems so weird!

Yet, as he came to realize, the pain we feel isn’t just about the bullet, it’s with the story that comes with the bullet.  The narrative that we construct around it.

Our story filters the pain.  Our context impacts our experience.

That’s some power, context has.

Even something as primal as the pain of getting shot.

There’s an invitation to inquiry, here, out of this.  An insight.*

“If something that seems so certain and unalterable like pain can be altered by the contexts I have created and am carrying around, what other ‘inviolable truths’ about how things are, and how they’re not, are likewise being influenced by my contexts?”

Maybe things are much more mutable than we often let them be.


* There’s a second, more direct, insight too.  When we next do smash our thumb, or hit our head, or something else owie, how we relate to that injury makes a difference in how much it hurts, and for how long.  It’s kinda fun to play with.