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The Impossibility of Pleasure without Pain

(Work in Progress)

Most people can easily accept the notion that if you think hard enough……it is impossible to have tall…… without……… having short. That our physical reality exists in a dualistic framework where all forms of measurement exist on a continuum is without too much dispute.

What a lot of people seemingly have a difficult time accepting is that emotions as well as sensations exist on a continuum. Namely where one type of emotion must exist and be experiential the other polar opposite emotion MUST also exist and be experiential. Meaning you cannot have pleasure without pain, and that you cannot have pain without pleasure.

People seem to be under the notion that an eternal pleasurable experience is possible without any reference to pain whatsoever. A state of eternal and sensual bliss. People believe this is possible without giving it too much thought. For surely we have all had painful experiences put also pleasurable experiences, why not have a state where one exists in exclusion to the other. After all you can only really experience pleasure or pain, at any one moment in time and not both simultaneously. So why not choose the better experience of ‘pleasure’ for all eternity, seems plausible and possible doesn’t it?

But, on closer examination that type of logic begins to break down. Pleasure as well as pain while not being quantifiable in terms of measurement is qualitative and thus has properties that can easily be described. Some things are extremely pleasurable (use your imagination), some things are moderately pleasurable, some things are relatively pleasurable, and some things are just ok. On the other hand some things are extremely painful, some things are moderately painful and some things are only mildly painful. As one can easily see the sensations of pleasure and pain exist on a continuum with an almost infinite amount of gradations of ”in-between” states.

The point is that something that is extremely pleasurable can ONLY exist in relation to something that is less pleasurable and thus inherently more painful in terms of spectrum.

If somehow YOU were ABLE to achieve a state where you only EVER felt one very specific grade of pleasure, you would not and could not comprehend any other state of less or more pleasure, or pain for that matter because you have no reference points. Just like a born deaf person who has never been able to hear has no conception of what sound is or a born blind man of what colour is.  When it comes to measures of sensation, only experience can actually give you an idea of what something is like.

But you might say ok, I can accept that some degree of variance is a necessity in order to sense something and be able to have a distinguished and unique experience about it, but could there not be a state, where you only had various gradations and degrees of pleasure?  The important thing to understand here is where your measure of ‘norm’ lies on the spectrum. It is important to understand the greater the spectrum the greater number of possible sensations and feelings are possible. A greater depth and appreciation is attained when you experience all parts of the entire spectrum. If all you ever felt and experience was a little to moderate amount of pleasure of a spectrum, what kind of depth would your experience have? It would pretty shallow, in fact you would be inclined not to think much of the pleasure at all because of how very little variation it has.

For example in other terms think of someone who is literally happy all the time.

Thus diversity in experience and sensation is a true gift in a sense. It expands your horizon of possible experience. Surely you may think you would want to choose an experience where only pleasure was possible, but if you did attain such an experience you would most likely eventually wonder what else was possible in terms of feeling and sensation. It is like every child who has never experienced hot inevitably chooses to get close enough to hot until it becomes uncomfortable (painful) to pull your hand away. The experience even if it only occurs once is required for true understanding. Likewise it comes to life and all the vast emotions that are possible. You can read about joy, sadness, depression, anxiety, contentedness, relaxation, love, happiness and fear all you want but as the blind or the deaf you won’t truly know what it is like to experience a sensation or feeling until you yourself experience it.

And thus we come full circle, pleasure cannot be understood until its counterpart pain is also experienced. All sensations as well as feelings and perceptions occur in a dualistic framework. One cannot exist without the other. Now it is possible is to have an experience of no pleasure and no pain, as if you didn’t have that type of sensory system.  But only pleasure and only pain is impossible. Even a moderately painful experience is inherently more pleasurable than an extremely painful experience. Likewise a moderately pleasurable experience is thus more painful and less pleasurable than an extremely pleasurable experience.

As long as gradations of a sensation exist, there will automatically be more pleasurable and less pleasurable sensations. The ‘bar’ or ‘the norm’ may vary from person to person, for what is painful for one person may be pleasurable to another given their experience. Take for example a person who is very, very ill and endures much continuous physical pain. As the person gets incrementally better a new standard is set. At first a small bit of relief is automatically more pleasurable than what was experienced before, and this sets a new standard. That standard may still be very low, but if its all the person has experienced, it will be subjectively high for them.

Imagine a person who is always happy and ahs never experienced pain, how much meaning would their happiness really have? Not much it would be pretty shallow, for meaning is always derived in comparison to something else. If someone brought u flowers everyday for the rest of your life, it may have meaning to you at first but over time you becomes accustomed to it.

In our quick to label society, why like to simplify things by labeling things good or bad. Most people will automatically without much thought label pain as inherently bad and pleasure as inherently good. But this creates a serious problem in terms of perception. For example the pain you feel when touching something extremely hot is actually a really good thing. The sensation of pain lets you know very quickly that something is not right. In those terms it would be wrong to demonize pain as we seemingly so often do, not realizing the benefit we gain from such a sensation. Likewise not all pleasure is necessarily and inherently a good thing. (Need example….drugs!?) As well with emotions. Emotional pain is good in the sense it lets you know there is something disharmonious going about, but even emotional pain is created through perception. It has been said that someone can only inflict suffering on you at once, all subsequent suffering you endure as a result of that incidence is self-inflicted. And thus we even create pain for ourselves on some level seemingly unknowingly…(not sure where im going with this)

We like to think of pain as something bad absolutely all the time. But pain is good it’s a feedback mechanism something’s going wrong. If you did not experience pain, you could put your hand on a hot plate, and if you were not looking melt it off or do permanent damage.

Death isn’t always bad either, its important tnot to demonize the experiences of pain and death. Who gave you that right??

—————————————————Extraneous Notes——further inquiry required———-

SERIOUS Counter – Argument. Can’t all emotions/polarities only be experienced from some arbitrary neutral position? True….but this decreases experiential contrast. Maximum experiential contrast especially pain wise catalyzes faster greater growth.

“I get the feeling that before they ate of the “apple” they knew only good and not evil. Evil was added to their knowledge by eating. Up until that point, they had only experienced that which was good — ie what God created in proper interaction.”

If I remember correctly the tree was meant to represent the knowledge of “Good” AND “Evil”. In the subjective relative realm of duality, evil cannot exist without good. God is the very creator of the dualistic frameworks within which we find our existence, and thus God created both Evil and Good. This is one of the most fundamental paradoxes of chrstianity and has no plausible answer in bible theology. Adam and eve can’t logically even have known good as you suppose because to know good is to compare it to something that is NOT- good..aka. evil.

Later on in the CWG book, Mr.Walsch gets into how “Evil” and “Good” are artificial constructs and have no basis in absolute reality. This may clear up his interpretation a bit for you. Sin likewise in non-existant and you can’t MAKE God angry by your “choices”.

We got into this a bit about the pain pleasure spectrum, and you responded with the brilliant neutral reference point, which it appears you are making reference to again in the good vs evil spectrum.

I still think there is a logical fallacy in your point of view. The best way I can explain it is you can’t have tall without short. You cant logically have a spectrum of tallness without the concept of shortness. I think this applies to all spectrum’s. However I am still not satisfied with my explanation….I’ll have to work on this.

————–

Good and bad would be different that Tall and short. Tall and short are relative descriptors and cannot be inherent (though they can be inherited). Even though an absence of something can be good or bad in certain scenarios, it is not necessarily so. Nothing can be neutral. Where there is nothing and something is added, then that added something could be good or bad, or again neutral.

A man is in a room with nothing else.
A) he is killed by an invader.
B) he is blessed by an invader.
C) A rug appears in the room.

Though there are many ways we could add information to the scenario to make it otherwise, with just what is given, A) would be bad,  B) would be good and C) would be neutral.

Creation was added to nothingness and declared “good.” Before, there was nothing, now there is something. That something is “good.” Was it good compared to nothing? Or just inherently good?

I end up having a hard time when I ask people “how is it going?” and they say “good!” Then, if I ask “what makes it good?” and they say “oh, nothing, I’m just not bad” I ask “not bad and good are two different things, what makes it good?”

The point being, an absence of evil is not good. It is neutral. An absence of good is not bad. It is neutral.

—————————

Good and Bad are relative descriptors as well. The CWG later on goes into a much more satisfactory answer to this dilemma. I’ll see if I can find the exact places.

You are making a grave assumption that creation was added to nothingness or that nothingness even exists.The “absence argument” itself appears to be fatally flawed when the dark/light, heat/cold metaphor is used because with Zero-point energy and Aether there is no such thing as pure darkness or absence of energy.

And we still haven’t addressed the issue of potentials. I accept your neutral position argument however no system exists in your hypothetical isolation’s, and thus it appears the polar potential opposite of Good and Pleasure must also exist.

———-

All of this ties in with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodicy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privatio_boni

    7 comments

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    1. Ashley

      Very well written Jonathan, love it. People too often misinterpret the famous sayings around pain and pleasure, including the one that makes me the most frustrated: “no pain no gain”. That’s a whole other blog entry I suppose…
      Everything comes back to perception.
      Some interesting thoughts I had while reading were, ‘but if we are all one, can’t one person feel pleasure while another feels pain or does it all have to happen within one person?’
      and
      ‘What about the whole time continuum, can we not experience more pain in one lifetime and more pleasure in another? ie, does our perception have to be limited to this one life experience?’
      food for thought…

    2. George

      Interesting, but I don’t buy this argument. I don’t think pleasure by necessity needs pain to exist. A person in abject pleasure or abject pain from day one doesn’t need to feel the converse in order to feel that pleasure/pain. It may be a contingent fact of the human brain that the brain becomes accustomed to it’s environment so it will tend towards a neutral emotional state (because it is adaptive), but that doesn’t mean it is in principle impossible to engineer a brain that is in an undiminishing emotional state one way or the other.

    3. shyamaneja

      Both pain and pleasure are the part of a life in present world, it carries out our life till the death. One can not save oneself from this.It is only truth and hope it will also remain. These are supplementary and complementary each other.The SUN and The MOON are two parts of day and night which makes week, month, year and yugs.Every action is as per our own actions or the effect under or around the infullence of our associates.Then why to worry for pain or pleasure, both are heartly accepted with respect.

    4. Stephane

      2 forces need to coexist to create energy, it start by impermanence against permanence… Chaos against cycle (pattern) SO you are energy!!!

    5. Stephane

      Can you have wet without dry?

    6. Scott

      As Batman needs the Joker. As Superman needs Solomon Grundy. It seems to be part of the human condition that we need an externalized enemy to define ourselves.If there are no bad guys to fight, we make some up.The darkness helps to define the light.

    7. Jason

      To have 100% pleasure would be the same as death as in there are no needs nor wants everything is satisfied.. thus there is no mortal being..

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