Friday, February 25, 2005

Dr. Livingstone, I presume? =CHOMP!=

Dr. Livingstone recounted his encounter with the wrong end of a lion in Africa in 1844 (from Travels and Researches in South Africa by Dr. David Livingstone):
Starting, and looking half round, I saw the lion just in the act of springing upon me. I was upon a little height; he caught my shoulder as he sprang, and we both came to the ground below together. Growling horribly close to my ear, he shook me as a terrier dog does a rat.


A horrific run-in as one would imagine. Jaws clamped on flesh, shaken 'like a Polaroid picture,' one imagines what unspeakable pain the good doctor must have felt. A lion's jaws can generate up to 950 pounds of pressure per square inch, and at the point of those carnivore teeth, the pain must have been excruciating. Couple that with the lion's box-cutter claws, 5 on each front paw, it'd be like being crammed into a wood-chipper, right?

Not quite. Dr. Livingstone continues:
The shock produced a stupor similar to that which seems to be felt by a mouse after the first shake of the cat. It caused a sort of dreaminess, in which there was no sense of pain nor feeling of terror, though quite conscious of all that was happening. It was like what patients partially under the influence of chloroform describe, who see all the operation, but feel not the knife. This singular condition was not the result of any mental process. The shake annihilated fear, and allowed no sense of horror in looking round at the beast. This peculiar state is probably produced in all animals killed by the carnivora; and if so, is a merciful provision by our benevolent Creator for lessening the pain of death.


Dr. Livingstone, devout man that he is, attributed this almost blissful near-death state to the Creator's design. And it is quite comforting. On the Discovery channel and the National Geographic channel, you see footage after footage of lions, leopards, and cheetah running down prey, hooking them with claws, and clamping their vise-like jaws on the poor creature's windpipe, throttling it. One imagines what horrors the poor creature feels as 900 pounds of pressure crush the life out of it. Hyenas and African Wild Dogs don't even bother to strangle their prey first. They disembowel it, fastening their claws on the prey's belly and groin and pulling and yanking til the animal is brought down, then proceeds to eat while the prey is still alive and fully conscious while its innards are being devoured, til it succumbs later to massive bleeding and damage to its vitals. Dr. Livingstone's account is a consolation, albeit small, that the prey animal feels no pain. In fact, it is quite possible that the animal finds the ordeal blissful; an out-of-body experience that frees it from all worries and pains of staying alive in an earth-bound existence.

Which brings us to pain. Pain is good. Pain tells you youre not going anywhere. Pain tells you youll survive. Whenever you can still feel pain--any pain--it means youll live. Love-hurts may be the most painful hurts of all but try welcoming it. Try feeling it in all its, for want of a better term, glory, and youll find yourself strangely alive. Being able to feel something so deeply is a gift. Maybe Agent Smith was right. Humans as a species are defined by misery. Or maybe he got it half right. I think humans are defined by their ability to rise above misery. To plod on even on the faintest of hopes. Not rising above misery only makes one sub-human.

Not feeling misery, not feeling pain, at all, is not a good sign. It means that soon youll be dead. And there are different kinds of dead, the worst of which is being dead while still alive.

3 comments:

grifter said...

as they say, you've never truly lived till you experience near-death (or how close that could ever be).

Time Bandit said...

cool! jego has a blog na rin. dapat sila kaye din ;)

Jego said...

Meron si Kaye. Ayaw niyang i-share. Kulitin nyo.