The pleasure that is suffering

Suffering is pleasure. Pleasure is suffering. All is one. One is the all. The opposites are an illusion. That which you fight against you are. That which you fight for, you are. The world is not at war. We are at war with ourselves, first and foremost, human beings, at lower levels of polarized consciousness, love their wars more than they love love.

Before Socrates is given the hemlock, he is freed from his shackles. This prompts him to notice the relationship between suffering and pleasure in human beings, that they are intimately connected, even though they don’t want to be present together. There is so much in this passage, so much depth and wisdom, I wouldn’t be able to cull even a small amount.

The nature of space and time dictates that pleasure and suffering appear to be different. Because we experience each at different intervals, it appears they are separate. However, believing them to be completely separate, or enemies even, is a result of surface perception, which Plato would have termed opinion, the belief in the seeming of things, rather than the true being. The being of the two are actually the same. This theme, that the opposites are in essence the same being, is reflected in the Pythagorean understanding of the nature of opposites, their relationship to the triangle (two distinct bases meeting at a single point), and the false illusion that life is the opposite of death (a major theme in this particular dialogue).

Note that because they are the same, if we try to kill one, the other will become more violent in its expression. To attempt to destroy the darkness is the attempt to destroy the light. This is the nature of polarity, whether that is expressed in political terms or any other. All of it is war, and war simply is the pleasure human beings take in their own suffering. Don’t be fooled by those who claim to suffer life – they take great pleasure in it always.

Below is the translation of the passage in the Phaedo at 59e:

Upon entering, we caught sight of Socrates who had just been freed, but we also saw Xanthippe – you know her – seated, holding his little boy. When Xanthippe saw us, she cried out and said the sorts of things that women customarily say, like “Socrates! Now is the very last time your students will talk to you, and you to them.” And Socrates, glancing at Crito said, “Crito! Have someone take her home.” Some of Crito’s men led her away as she continued to shout and beat her breast. And then Socrates sat up upon his bed, and began to bend his leg as he rubbed it with his hand. As he rubbed his leg, he said “How strange it seems to be, men, this thing human beings call `pleasure’, in that it naturally grows in the direction of its apparent opposite, namely, `suffering’. Yet, although the duo[1] don’t want to be present at the same time in a human being; whenever someone pursues and takes one, they are always required to take the other as well. It’s as if both, though two, are bound together from one head. “It seems to me,” he said, “that if Aesop had noticed this, he would have put together a story like this: The god, in being unable to make the two enemies friendly with each other, attached both of their heads to the same thing.  This is why, when one is produced in a human being, the other will shortly follow later, like what is happening to me now: there appeared to be suffering in my leg from the shackles, and now pleasure, following from behind, appears to have arrived.”

[1] Ancient Greek has singular, plural, and dual nouns and verbs. Socrates uses the dual when he says “two, bound together from the head”. The dual noun emphasizes the unity of the two into one.

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