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Physics of vulnerability

Reality is cubist.

I think this as my lover canes me. I’m naked, sweating, both from the press of a heatwave in the middle of the city and vivid sparks of pain falling against my skin as they strikes me again. they are is smiling, mouth a ripe fruit. Their body is tattooed and colourful, good to touch, bigger than mine, like I found a tapestry to fuck.

Cubism shatters the certainty of objects, revealing the fissures in reality and turning them into a seemingly broken but beautiful blur. My conviction, as I felt my sense explode into sensation, is that the invisible world of electrons and atoms, the shifting tilt of multidimensional theories is a cubist one. Electrons exist as either particles or waves. The form they take depends on how you look at them, or, their nature is a consequence of your observation. In seeing one truth, we highlight the absence of another.

In seeing, you are made aware of what you are not seeing.

Once upon a time, and more than once, physicists thought they had the universe almost solved. Details remained, but the basic structure of the cosmos was about to be perfectly understood. Pain feels like that like a truth about to be revelaed. The growing wave of a sharp strike expands, blooms in complexity and mass, and promises that in the next moment, it will break open, and all things will be understood.

But the break is pure sensation, impossible to articulate.

Particle or wave

Language or sensation.

We have this idea that knowledge is a linear ascent. That the journey is supposed to obey a rather simple equation: Time + data = understanding. But the trajectory of knowing is more complicated and dangerous. Knowledge takes risk. To really know something you need to see it, and feel it. By this definition, pain is a kind of knowing, but any attempt to express this knowledge will fall to metaphor.

Pain turns us all into researchers and storytellers, studying and discovering the complexities and nuances of the human experience. We live our data. Enriching our stories and ennobling our lives with personal symbols in a quest to find knowledge and truth from a full range of sources. Cane and fist and leather strap. What happens when we shine light through our skin? We see our blood.

To be a masochist is to learn some of pain’s qualities and emotional patterns. The habit of a mind that accepts pain and can still find joy, that through the blessing of permission can emerge not just unbroken but more whole. Pain is research into what happens to the self, the psyche, the spirit when we are in the thick of failure or loss or desolation, gasping for air. The surviving of pain creates a place of worthiness, visibility, as does the freedom to love with another, to embrace choices involved in living with a wholehearted honesty about one’s desire.

I think all these things in an instant, a single unit of time, between strokes of the cane.

Thought is a strange animal. Small rough-surfaced bundles of complexity.

The night is damp with summer weight, and I am flush and hot, sweating with pain and wonder. I look at all the glittering glass, the lit up windows out across the city...and wait, try not to flinch.

The cane falls again, abrupt. And I don’t think about anything for a moment. My mind is locked in a central space. An open point, the empty end of an exhale.

Pain is a paradox.

I am both inside and out, a frantic tumble between the sudden heavyweight of lust and the slow swell and bloom of singing pain. Locked in a moment of conflict I know well. I want to be hit again. And I don’t.

And I do.

They force their fingers into my mouth, claim it, my saliva pools around their fingers, drools down my chin.

Self-consciousness is an elaborate illusion — a whisper generated by an electrical shudder. There is no ghost in the machine; only the vibration of the engine, nothing but an infinite regress of material. The problem with that is it denies the existence of the thing it attempts to describe. Another Paradox. This is why we have stories and metaphors and cubist paintings; existence exists beyond our ability to understand it, at least in any literal sense, so we tell stories to capture a layer of experience that refuses to be explained.

Pain tells the story of the body in a moment.

This doesn’t occur to me again until later, after the pain is done, and I have kissed my lover’s cane, their hands, being kissed by them in return. I am kneeling, feeling marks on my thighs swell, skin hot and massive. My hair looks darker, wild and slick in places, held against my skin by a flush of sweat. They told me once that my eyes get darker too, less green more grey. Sometimes wet with tears. I am breathing heavily, shaking, but underneath I am trying to keep still - the stillness is important but the feelings are huge. My mouth is open.

The marks from a cane are bright and immediate, pale in their centres with bright red halos. They are a rosetta stone that help you answer the question:

Who are you?

What do you live for?

Consensual Pain helps give shape to the self. The self immersed in the fabric of reality and the constraints of that reality make it clear that the breach between ourselves and knowledge are not only an academic problem but also a practical one, an emotional one. If we want answers to our most essential questions, we are forced to resort to a metaphor. Poems.

My lover and I share a common nature, and together we practice a frantic meditation, exploring the reverence of body and sensation. For me, pain offers transcendence, a way to get lost in the wilderness of the self. Love’s relationship to pain is rooted in belonging, asking for and receiving pain is an almost spiritual practice, ritualising and creating, cultivating awareness, storytelling. While disocvering a self the body as an interface for exploring the shape of creation.

Chromosomal pairs match and intertwine to make all living things. They pull and wrap around one another like coiled snakes. They get tangled, stuck together. And then, in the biologicalin biological disaster of making a living thing they tear apart. Every time they rip apart, there is a risk that a chromosome will have a deletion or an addition - an error. I find this somehow comforting. Everything that exists is the result of some small violence, of highly unlikely volatile events.

It’s a miracle we are whole and alive, to begin with.

It’s a miracle any of us exist.

In light of all this, saturated by a slowly receding flood of pain, the idea presents itself to me again: Perhaps this fragility is a strength. Often we want to rid ourselves of pain because we want to eradicate absolutely everything that terrifies us. This is the same as saying we want to transcend what we are: human. But pain is an undeniable doorway into life. Love and pain make the same promise:

When love or pain are done, you will never be the same.

But you will be beautiful.

Our little violence holds destiny inside it, open-ended. We exist in the steady churn of happening. When I submit to pain or love I am seeking reality at its most fundamental, I seek and welcome something I am utterly incapable of comprehending or controlling. Through my body, I gain an understanding of myself that defies language.

In pPain all my metaphors fail — pain becomes a fact for reality, an abstract concept in concrete terms, skin and sensation, as interfaces for reality. In love’s bed, flush with pain, I close my eyes and feel out the cane marks, the welts and growing heat, and I smile. Everything inside me, bright and shining. Every sensation split open, reality exposed, rendered in greater detail.


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