Pain is pleasure

One of the memories I have of the pulse-pounding blockbuster of Dan Brown, “The Da Vinci Code” (2003), is the epigrammatic principle, “pain is pleasure”, and its counterforce, “pleasure is pain”. Though Dan Brown does not elaborate on the paradox in the book, I remember I paused for several minutes reflecting on its ramifications while reading the book for the first time exactly 10 years ago at my Forest Park residence then in the South Side of Chicago.

That “pain is pleasure” derives from the philosophy of “pain is good”, which Dan Brown considers “the sacred mantra of Father Josemaría Escrivá – the Teacher of all Teachers” – whatever that means. The point being made is that undergoing pain is not all that bad. A bit of pain is good for everyone.

No success can be achieved without pain. It was in this context that Pamela Anderson once said, “A little bit of pain is good for you. I feel alive. Everybody needs struggle. Once you overcome an obstacle, you springboard into the future. Life is interesting and short and it’s no supposed to be easy, and if it is, you are probably just in denial or you are existing here like a zombie.”

Many people seek pleasure, not knowing that pleasure is actually pain. In fact, seeking pleasure is even a religion. This is because in Hinduism, the cardinal principle is “you can have what you want”, the foremost of which is pleasure. But pleasure itself is pain.

The painful reality of today, however, is that many of us don’t want pain. We want to enjoy our ways to success. Imagine students who do not want to endure the pains of study, attending lectures punctually, in rain and in the scorching daylight, and completing assignments within the stipulated time. Yet, they want to graduate with good honours! Anytime I feel pains doing my work, I tell myself: pain is pleasure; and I find the work pleasurable.

We want to fix Nigeria but we don’t want to leave our comfort zones. We want to stamp out corruption but we don’t want our “sacred cows” to be touched based on our ethnic jingoism and religious bigotry. We want Nigeria to be good but we don’t want to change our ways. We want more and more of everything good but we don’t want any adjustments. Are we okay?

For the students, it is better to bear the pain of achieving excellence for about four years, graduate in flying colours and have the pleasure of having several opportunities later. That there are no employment opportunities in Nigeria has always been said for ages. Yet, hardly a day passes without someone somewhere getting a job opportunity. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th American President, said, “I will study and get ready, and some day my chance will come.”

Nothing great comes on a platter of gold. To catch a big game, you hunt deep into the heart of the forest. To catch the biggest fish, you undergo the pain of fishing far, and casting your net wide, not just at the riverside. To achieve a top grade, you endure the pains of reading consistently, not when the examination time table is released.

One Arab monarch was said to have charged his wise men to invent a sentence, to be ever in view, and which would be true and appropriate at all times and situations. The wise men conferred and they handed him the sentence: “And this, too, shall pass away.” Abraham Lincoln, my favourite American President who endured the pains of several electoral defeats, reflected on this and said, “How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!” All pains will certainly pass away.

In the Glorious Qu’ran, it is established as a general law of nature: “Surely with difficulty is ease. With difficulty is surely ease.” (Q94:5-6). No pain lasts forever. There is pleasure after pain, ease after difficulty, day after night and calm after storm.

Always endure the pain of work to enjoy the pleasure of success. The pleasure of today for students will result in future pains. The pains of today is future pleasure. Therefore, plant with pains today to reap harvest with pleasure tomorrow.

Always remember: no pain, no gain. And the only place where success comes before work is the dictionary!