give birth in pain and think it worthwhile; wilHngly, they endurerna long period of inconvenience, discomfort, pain—perhapsrnsevere, often dangerous—in order to bring life into thernworld. If it were not so, human life would have vanished fromrnthe planet once the nexus between procreation and pain wasrnestablished. Death itself can be chosen when there seemsrngood reason for it; if it were not so, there would be no heroes,rnno martyrs, no Leonidas at Thermopylae or Crockett at thernAlamo. It is undeniably terrible to be condemned to death, butrnit is not necessarily unendurable. What is unbearable is to berncondemned to death for nothing, to be a martyr to senselessness.rnHere is the inanity explored so powerfully by Kafka in ThernTrial. At the close of that dark text the protagonist dies supplyingrnhis own intolerable epitaph: “Like a dog!” But preciselyrnhere is the heart of the mystery, for a human being cannotrndie like a dog, cannot, at least, consent to a dog’s death withoutrnprotesting the imbecilic injustice of such an end.rnThere is no progress without pain, nornachievement, mental or physical, without selfsacrifice,rnand throughout history people havernbeen willing, even eager, to suffer, sometimesrnexcruciatingly, for the sake of some cause, thernlove of some principle, some end or goodrnprized above their personal comfort.rnWhat is peculiar about human beings is not their sufferingrn—all animals suffer—^but their questioning of this suffering.rnThe problem of suffering rises precisely from man’s refusal tornacquiesce in its inevitability; he alone among the animals demandsrnan explanation. Wittgenstein notwithstanding, werncannot but insist upon knowing why we suffer and die—whichrnis, of course, not at all the same as being able to name the diseasernthat is killing us: to name is a necessary but not a sufficientrncause of understanding. Anguish must be contained within arnmatrix of meaning if it is to be endured, mastered, and, greatestrntriumph of all, made purposive, fruitful. It is pain withoutrnpurpose, neither educating nor correcting, leading nowhere butrnthe grave, that is intolerable; such lunatic torment is an atrocityrnnot to be borne, an obscenity not to be endured.rnToday we are vulnerable, as no previous generation of healersrnand sufferers ever was, to the scandal of senseless suffering.rnThe human demand for an explanation of pain meetsrntoday an embarrassed silence; pain is not for anything—thernquestion that human beings cannot help but ask is now regardedrnas pointless and misplaced. This is especially true in thernmatter of chronic or terminal suffering, where the sole prospectrnis of ever-increasing agony ending in squalid death, “like arndog.” We increasingly believe that pain is the worst of all evilsrnand that incurable pain is totally bereft of any value, dehumanizingrnto all concerned—victim, relatives, and carer alike.rnOur sinister modern expression “the quality of life” reveals thisrnmentality: the notion is of human life as a commodity, a productrnrolling off a conveyor belt and subject to a system of qualityrncontrol; when the product is defective, its quality impairedrnbelow a certain minimum level of acceptability, we bring it torna compassionate close in the name of kindness, we discard it asrnan inferior item.rnThe ineffable evil of pain lies at the core of J 984. Winstonrnis struck on the elbow with a truncheon: “He had slumped tornhis knees, almost paralysed, clasping the stricken elbow with hisrnother hand. Everything had exploded into yellow light Onernquestion at any rate was answered. Never, for any reason onrnearth, could you wish for an increase of pain. Of pain you couldrnonly wish one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the worldrnwas so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are nornheroes, no heroes, he thought over and over as he writhed onrnthe floor, clutching uselessly at his disabled left arm.”rnThe enormity of gratuitous anguish brings King Lear to arnclose. The good man, Edgar, still striving to keep the dyingrnking alive, is rebuked by Kent, Lear’s steadfast servant: “O letrnhim pass. He hates him / That would upon the rack of thisrntough world / Stretch him out further.” There could be nornmore potent argument for euthanasia. When the world becomesrna torture chamber, with Lear cruelly elongated on thernrack of his anguish, what sensitive, compassionate person wouldrnwish to keep him alive? Edgar means well, but his kindness isrnreally cruelty. Lear will live on simply to undergo pointless, irremediablernpain. “O let him pass.” How often today is thisrnprayer wrung from some anguished bystander at the protractedrnpain-bed of a terminally ill patient. End the obscenity, haverndone with the torment, victim’s and onlooker’s alike: to whatrnpossible end serves such pointless pain?rnWinston and Kent summarize the contemporary conventionalrnwisdom on pain: all pain is evil; purposeless pain is anrnabomination to be ended when it cannot be cured. Thatrnother ages have held totally different views strikes us, when wernconsider it at all, as irrelevant, as proof of their intellectual backwardness,rntheir superstitious attitude toward life. Aeschylus inrnthe Agamemnon insists that “man must suffer to be wise.”rnShakespeare in King Lear tells us that “nothing almost sees miraclesrn/ But misery,” and the play confirms this. Not tillrnGloucester has been blinded doeshe see true, not till Lear hasrnhimself become a homeless wretch does he learn that otherrnpeople suffer too: “Poor naked wretches.. . / O, I have ta’en /rnToo little care of this!” The storm-lashed heath is Lear’srnschoolroom, suffering is his education, and, far from being thernworst of evils, pain is the means of his regeneration, the agentrnof his redemption. The loving father who dies of a heart attackrnat the play’s end is a far better man than the selfish autocrat ofrnthe opening scenes, and pain has been his tutor, has been, paradoxically,rn”good” for him. It is an insight not wholly lost tornmodern literature; the eponymous hero of Saul Bellow’s Hendersonrnthe Rain King discovers that truth comes from blows,rnthat “suffering is about the only reliable burster of the spirit’srnsleep.”rnBut such modes of thought as the educative or reformativernvalue of suffering, such concepts as the spirit asleep in a comfortablernbody, run counter to the grain of the modern world.rnThe old idea that suffering can purify (the idea that sustainsrnthe tragedy of the Greeks, Shakespeare, and Racine); that itrnmay be a test of virtue or patience (Job is here the exemplaryrnfigure); that no suffering is pointless if it is the means of sanctificationrnand rescue (the Suffering Servant Isaiah and Ghristrnare the exalted embodiments of such teaching): none of this affectsrnthe modern consciousness. The latter part of Bacon’s an-rn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn