The Test of Pain and Memory – Three Selections

It’s not often that one’s unrelated current readings overlap each other topically, but such was the case this week.

“We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the humans.”

He lifted his right hand, willing the memory of the pain. “And that’s all there is to it—pain?”

“I observed you in pain, lad. Pain’s merely the axis of the test . . .”

. . .

They spoke the truth. His mother had undergone this test. There must be a terrible purpose in it . . . the pain and fear had been terrible.

Dune, Book I

I listen to the pain . . . Pain as the proof of past life. There are no other proofs, I don’t trust other proofs. Words have more than once led us away from the truth.

I think of suffering as the highest form of information, having a direct connection with mystery. With the mystery of life. All of Russian literature is about that. It has written more about suffering than about love.

—Svetlana Alexievich, The Unwomanly Face of War

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

. . .

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Letter to the Hebrews 2:9โ€“10, 17โ€“18 (NKJV)

These texts resonate with a conviction that has been growing in me in recent years: that it is in actions (and the pain and sacrifice alongside them) where we find reality, or the truth about who we are. What are words—or ideas, or faith—if they are never tested?

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Frederick the Great on The Prince

I will defend humanity against this monster which wants to destroy it; I dare to oppose Reason and Justice to sophism and crime; and I ventured my reflections on Machiavel’s Prince, chapter by chapter, so that the antidote is immediately near the poison.

I always have regarded The Prince as one of the most dangerous works which were spread in the world; it is a book which falls naturally into the hands of princes, and of those who have a taste for policy. It is all too easy for an ambitious young man, whose heart and judgment are not formed enough to accurately distinguish good from bad, to be corrupted by maxims which inflame his hunger for power.

From The Refutation of Machiavelli’s Prince (currently reading).

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