Page:Reason in Common Sense (1920).djvu/233

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torments are those we feel gaining upon us, intensifying and prolonging themselves indefinitely. This baffling quality, so conspicuous in extreme agony, is present in all pain and is perhaps its essence. If we sought to describe by a circumlocution what is of course a primary sensation, we might scarcely do better than to say that pain is consciousness at once intense and empty, fixing attention on what contains no character, and arrests all satisfactions without offering anything in exchange. The horror of pain lies in its intolerable intensity and its intolerable tedium. It can accordingly be cured either by sleep or by entertainment. In itself it has no resource; its violence is quite helpless and its vacancy offers no expedients by which it might be unknotted and relieved.

Pain is not only impotent in itself but is a sign of impotence in the sufferer. Its appearance, far from constituting its own remedy, is like all other organic phenomena subject to the law of inertia and tends only to its own continuance. A man’s hatred of his own condition no more helps to improve it than hatred of other people tends to improve them. If we allowed ourselves to speak in such a case of efficacy at all, we should say that pain perpetuates and propagates itself in various ways, now by weakening the system, now by prompting convulsive efforts, now by spreading to other beings through the contagion of sympathy or vengeance. In fact, however, it merely betrays