I’ve always loved this scene introducing Peter O’Toole in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. In a film rife with extraordinary storytelling and wisdom, it remains my favourite. In hindsight perhaps it’s the spiritual undertone of Lawrence’s statement that’s always intrigued me most because, of course, Lawrence isn’t only talking about physical pain here. There’s plenty of that in store for him, and he endures it with savage grace and gritty dignity. But the pain he later suffers with some dismay is emotional, even spiritual. For example, after he is forced to execute a man Lawrence falls into a crisis of identity, and experiences devestating self-doubt, when he realises to his own horror that he enjoyed killing him.
Life hurts. Life is suffering, the Buddha told us. Lawrence of Arabia tells us the trick is … not minding that it hurts. Lawrence navigated through the variety of physical tortures and the self-denial both desert and life sometimes require of us with remarkable grace. The wounds to his self-identification, however, almost undid him. That pain he minded very much. When we mind the pain, we falter, we fall into self-pity, self-doubt, become wretched as our pain. But if we allow ourselves to feel the pain of life, experience it without fear or trepidation, then we endure it, can learn from it, and leave ourselves open to feeling joy, love, open to experience beauty and peace.
Pain is ephemeral, even emotional pain. It is love that endures.
And when we open ourselves to love, then we open ourselves to an internal flame that burns brighter and hotter than any match, a fire that can’t be blown out, nor does this sun ever set. But I think I’ll talk about that particular flame another day…along with another clip from this film.