I was attempting to sleep after a failed, pain-filled early-morning Super-G session, when I realized the relationship between lasting pain and musical dissonance. I have always been innately drawn to dissonant chords in music (chords containing two immediately adjacent notes on the scale, such as an F and F# above, the minor second). With the tension and weight they can hold, resolve usually proceeds, although it doesn't offer closure or consolation every time. I'm not even sure if it's about the resolve, or if it's about the balance and uncertainty that dissonance embodies. My relationship to dissonance can be compared to that of a sad person's relationship to melancholy music: it is relieving to know that your pain is shared--even if it's with an intangible substance. Sometimes to bask in that relatable sadness assuages the agony. Just one dissonant chord can ignite a flame inside me that shines light on the hopeful concept that it is okay to feel doubt, fear, tension, discomfort. These, in fact, can be beautiful feelings when seen form a grounded and balanced perspective.
Physical pain is something that is more difficult to alleviate. You can't feel the pain of others, and therefore do not find solace in knowing that it may be a mutual sensation. Chronic pain is something I hope to never have to endure through. It is nearly impossible to be happy when you are living in pain, and moments of bliss are overshadowed by the persistent misery--it always returns. You can't sleep. You don't want to eat. You can't play, laugh, or roll over in bed without being reminded of your pain. Discomfort imbues every action, pollutes every pleasure, eclipses every light. Pain is the dissonant note atop a harmonic chord. When that note lingers, the tension fails to release and the music/chord transforms from a beautiful, delicate balance to a dark, unnerving aggravation.
In high school, I was in 4 different orchestras and choirs. On a good day, when we played and sang with precision, I would yearn for those dissonant chords--revel in the difficulty to sustain them and relish in their clashing strain. They brought a dark, dramatic sound that I continue to seek out in music (especially classical). And they always concluded--whether through the transition to another chord, or with the closure of the piece. With the closure, there was something mesmerizing about that dissonant ring in the music classroom or concert hall that always left me with a sense of longing, yet satisfied gratification.
I always want more dissonance--but that's because I've never had too much. I've never sat with it for hours, days, weeks, as I recently have had to with pain. And I am begging for that to leave my body.
There are only a few things in life that are demanding/fascinating enough to require my undivided physical and mental presence: ski racing, some forms of art, love at my fingertips, and music (heightened by dissonance). As of late I have come to realize that I need to add one more thing to that list: pain. The difference between pain and these other aspects that consume me is that it is something I have no choice about. It demands my attention, if unwillingly, and when I become distracted from it, the pain whines and screams like a newborn until I return to and address it. This is not a pattern that I enjoy, but as I familiarize myself with it I have begun to appreciate the consciousness and intent that pain deliberates. I will sit with it. I will ponder it. I cry with it, and often attempt to relieve it with medicine. But, I have found, approaching pain with patience and deliberate attention is just another form of meditation. It may not be the most enjoyable, but it does seem to be the easiest--it can hold my awareness without much effort. It allows a sort of similar flow that is invoked through dissonance as well. Although I prefer the latter, I am learning with my pain, and I believe it is making me a stronger and wiser being.
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind