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Author Topic: EP411: Loss, With Chalk Diagrams  (Read 15386 times)

FireTurtle

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Reply #25 on: September 06, 2013, 03:15:30 PM

Also, I find it kind of funny that the argument seems to be that we do not exist as complete beings without suffering. Why, is this funny? Because I am reading the teachings of the Dalai Lama at the moment. I doubt Buddhists would agree with the method, but I am sure a fair few would agree with the removal of suffering.



I know little of Eastern philosophy, but isn't Buddhism less of the removal of suffering and more of finding a peace within yourself in spite of suffering. 

Exactly. Buddhism teaches that all human suffering comes from the desire for things to be other than they are. I would actually rewrite your phrase to replaced "in spite of" with just "in." I don't personally find the process of rewiring consistent with my understanding of Buddhism.


Oh dear, I seem to have derailed the thread a bit and it was very naughty of me to drag the Buddhists into it. Leaving religion out of it entirely- really, so sorry about that- is the type of prolonged grieving being erased in this story (as originally intended by the eraser's creators not as abused later on) truly adaptive or maladaptive? I would argue that life-threatening grief is maladaptive and like other maladaptive behaviors/states (sociopathy! It makes for great TV, lets keep it around!) it may not do us any good in the long run.

Ok, basically, I experienced two fairly major losses recently and am deep in the trenches battling my own grief and this story has made me very contemplative about the origins and possible uses of extreme grief. Now back to the story....

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin


SF.Fangirl

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Reply #26 on: September 07, 2013, 01:12:34 AM


The way I read the story rewiring doesn't effect memory...



That makes a lot more sense than what I understood it to be - ie the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind memory eraser.  Because I actually gave some thought to how forgetting that she was unable to become pregnant just wouldn't work since then she'd just keep trying and end up disappointed.  Rewiring takes the pain without memory makes a lot more sense.



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Reply #27 on: September 08, 2013, 04:33:53 PM
"When she awoke…she was not in pain."

But I was! This story seemed trite at first but quickly grew beautiful and rich. Before long, a precipice was reached…and as we fell into that prescribed void, I was in tears.



Devoted135

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Reply #28 on: September 10, 2013, 09:58:22 PM
Stories like this are one of the reasons why I love SF so much. By positing this technology, the story can explore questions about who we are and what makes us human in a way that classic literature never can. What makes us who we are, and if we are the sum of our experiences then doesn't removing the pain of loss diminish us? Then again, doesn't debilitating pain and suffering also diminish us if we are unable to move on? Where do we draw the line? As good as the story itself was (and by the way, I thought it was very good), my favorite part was thinking about the questions it raised and reading others' thoughts about these questions.


By the way, there have been studies looking at using chemicals in order to lessen the pain of specific memories. Because our memories are to some extent "re-written" each time we access them, the researchers could reduce the emotional impact by having subjects access the painful memories. This Radiolab story on the subject is several years old now, but fascinating nonetheless.



adrianh

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Reply #29 on: September 11, 2013, 05:05:28 PM
Stories like this are one of the reasons why I love SF so much. By positing this technology, the story can explore questions about who we are and what makes us human in a way that classic literature never can. What makes us who we are, and if we are the sum of our experiences then doesn't removing the pain of loss diminish us? Then again, doesn't debilitating pain and suffering also diminish us if we are unable to move on? Where do we draw the line? As good as the story itself was (and by the way, I thought it was very good), my favorite part was thinking about the questions it raised and reading others' thoughts about these questions.

Agree completely. And I think the author not presenting their views in a... blunt way makes that questioning much more fun ;-)

By the way, there have been studies looking at using chemicals in order to lessen the pain of specific memories. Because our memories are to some extent "re-written" each time we access them, the researchers could reduce the emotional impact by having subjects access the painful memories. This Radiolab story on the subject is several years old now, but fascinating nonetheless.

There was a Wired story on this a while back too. There was some fascinating work post 9/11 on PTSD treatments that showed some of the classic treatments for trauma work appallingly badly. See http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/04/features/the-forgetting-pill for more.



Uncanny Valley

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Reply #30 on: September 11, 2013, 10:51:51 PM
I struggled with this one a bit, and it took me a while to figure out why: it seemed to me that the main character was already rather emotionless prior to 'rewiring', even in light of her 'crying for a week' or something to that effect.  I think part of it was due to narration.  At first it bothered me, but then - and perhaps I'm over thinking this - if the story is told from her past memory, it would make perfect sense that she would come off as unemotional about it, because the pain had been removed.  I apologize if someone mentioned this already, but I didn't see it exactly when I read the comments.  If that was the intention, it was subtle and brilliant, both in writing and narration.  Either way, I had no trouble keeping interested in this story.



mb

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Reply #31 on: September 12, 2013, 07:40:53 PM
QFT
...the idea of living in that world where loss doesn't mean anything to anyone, they just brush it aside, that's scary.

There are no ups without downs. There is only mediocrity.

ahh, now you see, I've got a friend who jumped into an incoming underground train - and survived fortunately with no lasting injuries (the broken neck and arm eventually healed) - because of the pain. She'd like it to be taken away...



matweller

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Reply #32 on: September 12, 2013, 08:13:20 PM
QFT
...the idea of living in that world where loss doesn't mean anything to anyone, they just brush it aside, that's scary.

There are no ups without downs. There is only mediocrity.

ahh, now you see, I've got a friend who jumped into an incoming underground train - and survived fortunately with no lasting injuries (the broken neck and arm eventually healed) - because of the pain. She'd like it to be taken away...

Right, but in that case you're talking about the difference between a medical need and recreational abuse. And while I believe that your friend finds that particular pain insurmountable, I'd bet she'd prefer help dealing with it to removing the possibility of ever having any kind of pain ever again. And if not, I think we would all agree that's a special case and not something to spin out to the general population.

Modern day humans don't need legs to live, but if society moved to where it became fashionable to remove them just to have one less body part to potentially break or ache, that would be a shame. Sure, legs hurt sometimes, but removing them should not be the generally accepted resolution to avoiding leg discomfort.



evrgrn_monster

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Reply #33 on: September 16, 2013, 03:13:48 AM
Absolutely adored this story. The writing itself seemed to be an echo of grief; most sections left me feeling slightly hollow, and I think that really shows how much effort the author put into this piece. Every phrase seemed carefully picked out. Good on the narrator for being an excellent delivery system for that message; although normally I am not a fan at all of light, breathy voices, this one worked well for me. For the character, who was not a strong person in the end, it was a perfect match.

So sad, but cathartic. It's nice to read (or hear in this case) works that show us how much grief and loss adds to the human experience. Not to harp too much on FireTurtle for bringing up Buddhism, but as a practicing Buddhist, this story spoke to me. Suffering is part of being human; we need to embrace that feeling and really feel it for all that it is. We can only hurt because we have felt such profound love and emotion, and that is what is beautiful about it.


TheArchivist

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Reply #34 on: September 16, 2013, 08:28:56 AM
Quote
There are no ups without downs. There is only mediocrity.

To play devils advocate: Why is alleviating mental pain so much worse than alleviating physical pain. Is our world worse because of aspirin & anaesthetics?

Others have responded to this, but I would add my take.

What we see in this story is not "alleviating mental pain". It is not about mental health per se, and it is not the emotional equivalent of aspirin. It is the equivalent of curing the pain of a broken leg by giving the patient leprosy - killing all ability to feel.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that given the choice, I'd opt for more natural flow and slightly slurred words over crystal clear pronunciation and slightly misused punctuation.

I also wanted to register my strong agreement with Max's point here. To me, it's one of my most frequent issues with EP, that some narrators appear unaware of the rules of punctuation or the intended flow of the story. It does seem mostly to be the ones whose enunciation is excessively crystal clear but I don't know whether there's a causal link.



matweller

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Reply #35 on: September 16, 2013, 11:50:34 AM
Anyway, what I'm saying is that given the choice, I'd opt for more natural flow and slightly slurred words over crystal clear pronunciation and slightly misused punctuation.

I also wanted to register my strong agreement with Max's point here. To me, it's one of my most frequent issues with EP, that some narrators appear unaware of the rules of punctuation or the intended flow of the story. It does seem mostly to be the ones whose enunciation is excessively crystal clear but I don't know whether there's a causal link.

If we were a hospital, we'd be a university hospital: an aged staff leading around a bunch of unpaid intern doctors who are very learned, but still new to at least this aspect of their craft.

Or maybe it would be more apt to say the EP stage is like a comedy club where big names often come to test out and hone new material. They've got skill and experience, but they're trying something a little new and a little outside of their comfort zone before making it a part of their traveling act.

Voices are easy to find, but there are surprisingly few voices with extended experience in long-form reading. That "natural flow" you seek is something a narrator develops with experience. Conventional wisdom says things like: you should read slower than is normally comfortable to be understood. It's true, but it takes time to find the balance between slow enough and too slow. I know my first narrations for EP had some of the same issues, and even now every time I do it I'm still learning things I should improve for next time. But I like doing this and want to do it more, probably even paid jobs, so I do learn from each narration.

Eleiece is a kindred spirit in that respect, and that's why I love using her. If IMDB listed amateur audio drama credits, you'd be hard pressed to find any professional actor with a resume as long or accomplished as hers. She's relatively new to this kind of narration, but she puts honest thought into her portrayal and I think you'll agree that what issues she does have (A) lessen through the course of the story as Max mentioned in that original comment and (B) will only flow better and more naturally the more often she does it.

I'm sure she appreciates any comments people want to give her. I know I always do. And I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2013, 11:57:05 AM by matweller »



TheArchivist

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Reply #36 on: September 16, 2013, 12:52:05 PM
Voices are easy to find, but there are surprisingly few voices with extended experience in long-form reading. That "natural flow" you seek is something a narrator develops with experience.

Oh, I entirely agree, and I'm not in any way suggesting it would be easy to meet my outrageously perfectionist target quality! I have had a few goes at reading (mostly my own) short fiction to an audience, and it's hard. Reading to a microphone must be even harder, I'd guess - the chance to fix any misspeaking easily outweighed by the lack of feedback and permanence of anything you do let through. When editing down sermon recordings for my church web site, for example, there are tiny slips and quirks I definitely didn't notice "live" that sound glaringly obvious on MP3. Escape Pod is the only "non-professional" example of narration that I regularly listen to, so please don't take my "frequent issues" comment as derogatory - it's merely observational.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #37 on: September 16, 2013, 03:19:51 PM
I'm sure she appreciates any comments people want to give her. I know I always do. And I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.
... so please don't take my "frequent issues" comment as derogatory - it's merely observational.


Yeah, I tried to be as constructive, understanding and non-personal as possible. My comment was not meant as a complaint, merely an observation from which we can all learn and improve.

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Joshua A.C. Newman

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Reply #38 on: September 17, 2013, 03:14:43 AM
Knowingly or not, this refers to an actual technology, or at least a budding one. When I tweeted about this, a friend wrote back, "Oh, good, instead of just post-traumatic stress disorder, we'll have people with post-traumatic amnesia."

Sure, we're formed by our pain. It serves a function: DON'T DO THAT AGAIN. OR, OK, WELL, AT LEAST PRACTICE NEXT TIME. But trauma is different; scars are a weakness, not a strength, that comes from a wound. They're the things we can't put down, can't stop thinking about. Their presence causes further suffering.

Buddha's big realization was that we can treat each other with compassion, and doing so relieves some of the suffering that defines existence. If you take away your own pain, how can you feel compassion for others? How can you feel compassion for yourself? Buddha was protected from any sort of suffering until he was an adult of 29 before he knew that suffering even existed, and still, it took the tiniest glimpse to shatter his entire perception of the universe.

Eventually, even the chronically rewired will experience the suffering of dying, and they will be unprepared as those around them. It is a society that must live in constant terror of death, because it is the only thing that can't be rewired away. The removal of suffering does not eliminate it. It just puts it off.



FireTurtle

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Reply #39 on: September 17, 2013, 03:43:27 AM
I agree that some experiences are neccesary. Certainly dying is one of them. IRL I believe that our current culture is far to divorced from the reality of dying at that it should not be experienced at a remove or fought until the person who is doing the dying is reduced to a battleground between fate and medicine.

However, I fully object to the assumption that all suffering is equal and equally necessary. Yes, some suffering teaches. No argument. However, like the example in this story, some suffering leads to maladaptive behavior. How can one learn from suffering if one commits suicide? What is the lesson? Similarly, if you have been blown up or your child has been murdered or some other horrific and traumatizing act has occurred in your life, you can't surely be arguing that the lesson is not to be blown up of not have a child? Yes, many can in time find peace within themselves after horrific traumas. Many do not. One merely has to look at the miriad of problems experienced by veterans of wars to know that this is a simplistic answer to a greater problem. Perhaps, in some circumstances, people have simply suffered enough and the removal of the pathologic emotion surrounding an event would allow them to process the event more fully and move forward.

I find the discussion here interesting and polarizing. (Well, ok, me in one side and seemingly everyone else on the other.) Perhaps it is my line of work, or rather, in this instance, my calling.

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin


rlzack

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Reply #40 on: September 19, 2013, 12:04:10 AM
This story surprised me some. This is a fairly common theme in SF. At least, I have seen it before. And I don't think I've ever seen it done in a way that makes removing memories a good thing. (Perhaps Paycheck by Philip K Dick. But even that shows a downside to intentionally forgetting.)

So, dear listeners - does anyone really have a memory they would like to forget?



matweller

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Reply #41 on: September 20, 2013, 07:54:56 PM
Speaking of applicable Radiolab episodes... The first segment of the most recent podcast is interesting listening in conjunction with this story in relation to isolating & removing parts of the brain to cure one problem and having it open a can of worms.

http://www.radiolab.org/story/317421-blame/



PotatoKnight

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Reply #42 on: September 22, 2013, 06:53:27 PM
Also this setting of the future didn't really speak to me. It was pretty much the same as today. Things were not that bad but not that good. It was neither positive or negative, but rather the status quo. The only negative was the closure of the post office.   

I thought the future created here was one of the strongest suits of the story. It did a good job to me of feeling like the future from my perspective but seeming like the people in the story don't see themselves as living in the future.  The story did this with details--chalkboards are already an anachronism when the main characters are children (for today's children, chalkboards largely are a thing of the past, but most adults have at least elementary school memories). I really liked that the postal correspondence is called "ephemeral" but any phone calls or e-mails would be "permanent"--an inversion of how we would think of these things. But if there is a permanent record of everything communicated digitally, the old kinds of information tied to physical media might start to feel temporary.

I think that can be a weakness of a lot of SF, realism-wise. The futures seem self conscious--people on the Enterprise kind of seem to me like they are excited that they get to live in the happy future. That helps make Star Trek fun, but it doesn't work well for a story about humanity because that's not how humans think.

That's what I like most about this story. Much SF about "humanity" doesn't do a great job of showing humanity. This one does.



Gamercow

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Reply #43 on: October 10, 2013, 01:07:13 PM
Lots to say about this one, and the comments section.

First off, the story:  I thought it was well read and well written.  Lord help us all if E. Lily Yu and Ken Liu get together and write a story, I'm sure even the hardest of souls would end up crying into their cheerios if that ever came about.  The pain of loss and the potential of loss was very well conveyed, and I felt for both of the main characters very quickly.  Most of us have known someone that has gone through a life like Linda(?) did, full of experiences, but also full of pain.  I'm not sure if one begets the other, or if there is a certain personality type that lends itself to that kind of lifestyle. 

I am surprised that no one has mentioned Cybermen from Doctor Who yet.  The entire premise of that race of baddies is that they were originally created to remove all emotional pain and suffering from the person's brain.  This evolved to all emotion, and that loss of humanity has been a driving force of their ability to stay relevant for so long in that series. 

In regards to the procedure itself, I don't think I would want to have it, because I have led a relatively blessed life, with only minor losses and pains.  Those experiences have helped make me who I am today, and I don't think it would be right to forever erase all pain and suffering.  That said, I know people who have had some traumatic experiences such as rape, the murder of a loved one, miscarriages, war trauma, etc., that are permanently scarred in a massive way by these events.  I am pretty sure that they would erase those traumas from their minds if they could.  Not sure if they would erase ALL pain and suffering, but those big events?  Definitely.  PTSD is a nasty beast. 

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InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #44 on: October 11, 2013, 12:50:53 AM
In regards to the procedure itself, I don't think I would want to have it, because I have led a relatively blessed life, with only minor losses and pains.  Those experiences have helped make me who I am today, and I don't think it would be right to forever erase all pain and suffering.  That said, I know people who have had some traumatic experiences such as rape, the murder of a loved one, miscarriages, war trauma, etc., that are permanently scarred in a massive way by these events.  I am pretty sure that they would erase those traumas from their minds if they could.  Not sure if they would erase ALL pain and suffering, but those big events?  Definitely.  PTSD is a nasty beast. 

Plastic surgery is wonderful if you've been in a car wreck or tripped over an IED.  Not so much if you just think your nose is "wrong" or you don't look 20 anymore.



Unblinking

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Reply #45 on: November 04, 2013, 06:21:25 PM
For quite a bit of the body of the story, where the two women are communicating by mail, I just wasn't that interested.  I zoned out for intervals and when I came back it didn't seem that I'd missed anything. (Or am I thinking of a different story?  No one else seemed to mention that part, it has been a while since I listened admittedly)

But the overall technology and the way the story uses it are great food for thought.  I liked how the author made cases for both sides of the debate, and made it seem real instead of a story which says "here is a lesson which I shall teach you" it just makes you think and then it stops, with no moral. 

The advancement of the tech I can see as very realistic--I can see how research would be funded to help with PTSD patients, expand bit by bit until the whole populace considers it the new norm.  If this tech were available, I believe it really would go like that, given enough time.  It would bother me to no end, but as the populace aged and the people who remember life before that technology die of old age, it would become more and more acceptable.

To me the conclusion I've come to from contemplating this story is that people who go through this procedure are no less human than I am.  But they are differently human.  The world would not stop from this, the world would not become Hell on Earth, but it would be irrevocably different.  I don't believe it would be a world that I would want to live in, but that is a personal preference, not a moral judgment, and might very well have as much to do with the natural fear of change.  If I were born into a society where this was already normal, I would obviously think differently just as a result of seeing the things I see around me, and in that case I would probably accept it as a matter of course.

To me the main reasons why I wouldn't want to go through the procedure are:
1.  To some extent what other people said about needing lows to experience highs, and etc.  I do think this will be counterproductive in the long-run where stimulant abuse become a problem because neutrality is the new low and so people have to get high to feel anything. 

2.  If I don't mourn my loved ones, who will?  If my wife died, God forbid, and no one ever felt the need to mourn her, I feel that would be a gross injustice to her for not reflecting on the effect she has had on my life, on the life of our son, on the life of her parents, on the life of all the people she's helped as a medical professional.  Of course she would be dead, so she's not around to care whether or not anyone remembers her, and if I had gone through the procedure it wouldn't bother me either, so in that period of time no one would care about what I'm thinking now.  But that's the problem! 
Sure, everyone has to die sometime, and all the billions of us  who are alive, and all of the many more who have ever been alive will go through this, so one could say that in the scheme of things a single death doesn't matter that much.  Or one could say that all of those deaths matter because they matter to others.  If no one can mourn the deaths then we might as well all die now and be done with it.  Which, is probably exactly the kind of statement that the procedure is meant to sidetrack.

3.  Going through the procedure, to my mind, is an act of suicide.  Curing urges for suicide by going through with suicide, if you will.  Everybody changes as time goes on.  No one is ever the same person they were a year before.  But the change is usually so gradual that you can't notice it, and for the most part is not a conscious choice.  I mean, our choices have an effect on it--if I say "I'm going to backpack across Europe for a year" you will become a different person than if you say "I will take that entry-level job in my hometime and see where that takes me", but it is generally a choice between branching paths where each path will take you gradually away from who you are now.  You can't stay the same person, so even if you like who you are you can only choose paths which will take you toward being another person that you can live with being.
 --A procedure like this, on the other hand, is an intentional discarding of the person who you are right now and replacing it with another person who has some similarities but different motivations and different focuses of their mind, etc...  If  suicidal person decides to go through the procedure, in my mind they have only chosen a different form of suicide.  In this case, it's a suicide that spawns another person that has your memories.  Whether you call that a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but I don't think that same person is there.  When the post-op person looks back at their memories, won't it seem like the actions of a stranger?
--If a non-suicidal person goes through it, then I'd say the existence of that technology has driven them to this form of suicide, where a functional and more-or-less happy person chooses to discard their self to create another person who they objectively feel is "better".  To me I'd say that this is tragic, as the person has been driven to kill themselves when they otherwise would not have.

I thought that her friend's suicide was incredibly selfish.  She wanted to be mourned, and she made sure she was, if only for a brief time.

The ending line of the story was incredibly powerful.  I find it very interesting that a line that taken out of context seems like it ought to be hopeful and happy, instead just strikes me as tragic and wasteful because of its context.



Hilary Moon Murphy

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Reply #46 on: November 18, 2013, 03:29:10 AM
This was a wonderful story, so painful and true.  Thank you so much for running it.

Hmm


CryptoMe

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Reply #47 on: January 13, 2014, 05:17:32 AM
I loved how this story presented all the complexities of the issue. Pain, depression, and suicide vs the richness of life and definitions of self. Both characters grappled with these in very different ways. Both were right and wrong in different ways - though each reader may have their own opinions of which is which. Very well done!



hardware

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Reply #48 on: February 25, 2014, 03:36:27 PM
Sometimes you need a thoughtful, melancholic story like this. It was well shown how these two extremely different characters wound up as the ones never using the rewiring: one because she completely defined herself through her pain, the other because she already internalized the process to such a degree.



mb

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Reply #49 on: April 19, 2014, 11:33:25 PM
QFT
...the idea of living in that world where loss doesn't mean anything to anyone, they just brush it aside, that's scary.

There are no ups without downs. There is only mediocrity.

ahh, now you see, I've got a friend who jumped into an incoming underground train - and survived fortunately with no lasting injuries (the broken neck and arm eventually healed) - because of the pain. She'd like it to be taken away...

Right, but in that case you're talking about the difference between a medical need and recreational abuse. And while I believe that your friend finds that particular pain insurmountable, I'd bet she'd prefer help dealing with it to removing the possibility of ever having any kind of pain ever again. And if not, I think we would all agree that's a special case and not something to spin out to the general population.

Modern day humans don't need legs to live, but if society moved to where it became fashionable to remove them just to have one less body part to potentially break or ache, that would be a shame. Sure, legs hurt sometimes, but removing them should not be the generally accepted resolution to avoiding leg discomfort.

I strongly agree, but I am not sure you fully understood my reservation: the statement I disagree with was "There are no ups without downs. There is only mediocrity." and thus elevating suffering to something we should appreciate, enjoy even...
I know, this is a common argument, and I still disagree with it. Two related things that recently crossed my mind:

I was just reading an article by Richard Swinburne (a cristian philospher) specialising in the disucssion of reconciling the existence of evil in the face of an omnipontent good god. His view (if I understood his reasoning correctly) - which I strongly disagree with - is that bad things happening  (and we are talking hollocaust level bad things) always have a positive element (for instance, we learn through them) and are hence justified and to be appreciated. Comparable to the parent telling a child off to avoid something dangerous. Well, I think the analogy doesn't really stand...

The other thought regarding suffering I had, was that in Vipassana (I could have said Buddhistm, but to avoid a discussion about Karma, I didnt) one tries to deal with suffering by being detached, i.e. we accept change and resulting suffering, and while we are not averse to it (as there is no point) we are also not appreciating it either. I am bringing this up, as, again, I believe there is nothing gained in elevating the virtues of suffering, even in light of the argument that if there is nothing negative then there won't be a positive either.
What's wrong with being equanimous and level zero?