Vatican Saying 73

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Template:Vatican Saying 73


This Saying elaborates on an important, lateral point in Epicurean teaching: not all pain is unconditionally a bad thing. For example, Epicurus argues elsewhere that it may be wise to occasionally endure a short-term pain, if it will yield greater long-term pleasure (and, inversely, to shun a short-term pleasure, if it will bring upon us greater long-term pain). In this text, this point is made more sharply: even if we actually experience some bodily pain, it is not necessarily for naught; it may very well hold a valuable lesson, teaching us to guard against greater yet pains in the future.

Indeed, the natural function of pain (as per our nervous system) is in fact to send a warning signal that some injury has been sustained, and/or that greater yet injury may ensue if, for example, we continue to heedlessly strain that aching limb. In this, and many other respects, Epicurus is remarkably in tune with physiology, iterating practical advice that is perennially current and up-to-date.

There is little doubt, however, that this remark of Epicurus was also meant to be "transposable", and thus that the pain(s) he spoke of must have included metaphorically also those pains of the soul. If, for example, we feel the pangs of envy towards someone wealthier, or more powerful, or more famous than ourselves, we ought to take this as a signal to work on eradicating the very motives of such a negative feeling, and thus relieve ourselves of greater, more intense, or life-long suffering from envy.

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