The unifying power of pain

David Busch

I just finished reading The New York Times. I lay it down on my lap, start a calm, rhythmic sway in my rocking chair and feel the warmth of the blazing fire in the wood-burning stove next to me. I just read about recent suicide bombings in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, about women soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, about Michelle Obama’s slave ancestry, about protests in Jerusalem and about inner city schools in New York, struggling to stay afoot and provide for their students.

Our world is multilayered and profoundly intimidating to think about as one individual lost in the mix of 7 billion. There exist thousands of religions, languages, cultures and personalities that all compete for autonomy and, most importantly, respect. The stories I just read, that I read every day, are all results of these despairing ideologies and beliefs trying to live together – bloodshed, violence, anger and, most importantly, pain. As Rufus Wainwright sings, “Oh, what a world we live in.”

I look off into the dancing flames of the fire – lost in contemplation. Every time I read The New York Times or an international paper or listen to a radio broadcast, a pain stabs my heart. I’m sad. We live in a divided world, a divided country and as divided individuals. Can we ever find understanding? I hope so, but I know it isn’t going to be in common beliefs or ideologies. It’s going to be in something that is purely human. In our differences as humans that have caused wars and immense suffering is one unifying theme of life: pain. The experience of pain is the experience of being human – it transcends identities, beliefs and ideologies. Pain understands.

The wars, the anger, the strife between countries like India and Pakistan, North and South Korea, Israel and Palestine, the west and the east all have one theme that runs through it all – pain. This idea – the unifying power of pain – is being used in the Israeli/Palestine conflict. Robi Damelin is an Israeli who lost her son, David, to a Palestinian sniper. Ali Abu Awwad is a Palestinian who lost his brother, Yousef, to an Israeli soldier and they are both in the group, “The Parents Circle – Bereaved Family Forum,” which connects people on both sides of the conflict through the pain each is suffering. The death of their relatives could have been another reason to highlight their differences, but they decided to use their pain to understand, to connect.

Mr. Awwad and Ms. Demelin spoke of their relationship in an interview on NPR. Each has come to know each other and their lost loved ones personally. They respect the identities of the other, but through the identities they both see the pain, the humanity that connects them.

Mr. Awwad articulates this when he spoke of visiting the school Ms. Domelin’s son used to teach at. He said, “When I went with Robi to the place that David had been teaching in the yearly date that he get killed, we went to meet the student there. When I get to the library that David was preparing for the student, a good library, and I saw Robi start crying there, I don’t know, it’s strange, that feeling that I got at that moment. I have that feeling that David is telling me, ‘Take care of my mother’. And I think Yousef was so happy that Robi was taking care of me, and I really don’t feel this identity when I feel about David, when I feel about Yousef. I don’t feel that. They just put us – by passing away, they put us in this deeply feeling with our humanity. And if people appreciate and if politicians appreciate the life as they appreciate the death, peace will be possible.”

David Busch is a junior history and psychology major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]