The Gate of Artemis


Imagine that you have a really bad toothache. You are away from doctors, dentists and pills, somewhere in the jungle or in a remote valley mountain, alone. You cannot do anything but endure the pain, and, remember, it is really bad. Nothing else counts at this stage, with this ache drilling through your head.
Well, don’t you think that being relieved of the toothache would be bliss?
And yet, if you would live without toothache, you wouldn’t even notice the absence of pain. You just would not experience the enjoyment of a pain free condition, it would just be existence as usual, and existence as usual, for many people, is hardly anything remarkable. Isn’t it regrettable that we do not intensely enjoy every minute of a “normal” state? Let us call this the toothache paradox.
Imagine now that existence is a big toothache. It’s pretty much the Advaist, Jain, or Buddhist view that see existence as filled with suffering, an ocean of confusion from where we must remove the causes of sorrow such as desires, attachment, frustration, anger, sadness etc, which inhabit our mind like the toothache fills our mouth cavity.
If we can remove this sorrowful condition, the promise is nirvana, that is the relief from the pain opens the promised land: existence as the state of lasting bliss and not the lasting boredom ( l’ennui) that some experience as a sadly familiar feature of their daily existence. Let us call this the toothache redemption.
It would seem that pain finds its appointed place: it compels us to go through the dualities of worldly existence to finally achieve the non duality of deeper “I”ness. Obviously not a consideration that captures the attention when the toothache is raging.
But what is the trick to land in the state of bliss rather than in the space of boredom?
When I was young I was afraid of one thing. I was afraid of being bored. On balance, life has not been boring for many people I know who looked for the trick.