What is pain to the collective body?

Today is 21 November 2015. I haven’t posted since June – six months.

What has been going on in the meantime? Lots of chronic nerve pain in my legs which has meant I’ve stayed away from my computer – even with efforts to create an ergonomic set up and notwithstanding technology for dictation and the like. Chronic pain at a high level in these months has meant I was unable to concentrate, as well as experiencing major physical discomfort.

I still have chronic pain, and at times at high levels. I’m back at the keyboard, however, because my concentration seems to have returned. And I’m learning to live with the pain – to do activities despite it.

What does it mean to live with constant pain? How does this impact on how I show up in the world? With how I interact with others?

I ask these questions to myself while also thinking about the notion of chronic pain in terms of collective identity, behaviors and dynamics. Two years ago, I moved to New Mexico in the southwest United States. In spring 2014, I attended a training session with community organizers. In one exercise we put ourselves into groups. Each group was ask to give two presentations: (1) how do others perceive your group and (2) how does your group perceive itself?

One group described how the outside world spoke about them with words including lazy, scroungers thieves. They used similar words to articulate how they describe themselves. Many of us cried as we listened to and watched this group express nothing less than self-loathing.

One of the organizers would later comment that in his decades of doing organizing across the USA, he had rarely felt such deep pain in a community.


I am learning to live with it.  Sometimes, I get to points where I can’t imagine not having it. Sometimes, I create stories that tell me I deserve it or its somehow my fault. Sometimes, I become ashamed of being in pain and I deepen the burden of the pain by chastising my self for it.

How might such behaviors, akin to those I’ve been giving life to, manifest collectively? How do we work constructively with emotional and physical pain in a collective body?

We are a world experiencing great, heartbreaking pain. What exactly is the impact of this pain on us all? On how we be and create together?

Pain in my legs and back, I’m nevertheless stepping into these questions.



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