Weirdly it applies to my work as a data scientist. To truly quantify and qualify pain I seek to calibrate definitions. Industry often treats pain like a monolithic homogenous entity and it is certainly NOT. I pick variables and attributes hoping to measure pain but know that without the context and cipher to translate--It is meaningless.
I hope you will take the few moments to read the poem. If you work with patients in any capacity or are tasked with research methodology in questionnaire design or work with healthcare providers--you will appreciate how a simple pain scale serves no one.
I was fortunate to hear David read his poems live at the first ever On Being retreat held beneath the beautiful redwoods in California. He has a hauntingly beautiful tone and cadence. Listen to him from the TED stage. David Whyte has many beautiful books of poetry but one of my favorites is Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning go Everyday Words. The poem Pain is one of the 52 words selected as a "doorway into the underlying currents of human life"...
I for one don't think we live enough in the space of what a word actually means. I recall robust debates between stakeholders when collaborative efforts were stalled as we intently tried to define such familiar terms such as "middle-class" or "value" in a way that allowed merging of large datasets.
Pain is a big one. When we examine addiction culture, rising suicide rates, and patient outcomes across a wide variety of chronic conditions are we certain we are measuring the same thing?
Experiencing real pain ourselves, our moral superiority comes to an end; we stop urging others to get with the program, to get their act together or to sharpen up, and start to look for the particular form of debilitation, visible or invisible that every person struggles to overcome. In pain, we suddenly find our understanding and compassion engaged as to why others may find it hard to fully participate.--David Whyte