Opinion: Final cut


Through the beginning of the last century, the Chinese government endorsed the use of lingchi as a method of torture and execution for those unlucky enough to defy the commanded order. Without being too descriptive, the intent was to slowly, as slowly as possible, inflict torment. In the West, the tradition, which dates as early as 900 A.D., is often known as “death by a thousand cuts.” While deliberately gruesome, it served the intended purpose to both punish and prevent resistance.

We humans, almost without exception, despise suffering. We run from it. We complain about it. We fantasize about a world where it is completely eradicated by technology or social compact. A loose pebble in our shoe can cause us, over time, to collapse. In rage, we cry out from the hinderance. Sure, most mature adults have come to accept that a bit of inconvenience is inure to a life well-lived. Good dental care, it is reported, has prolonged humanity more than any other single effort. Still, so many of us refuse to endure the trouble of regular visits.

We are slighted oh, so often by life and those around us. The tiny cuts occur. But if we react too aggressively to the slights, are we missing some longer-term benefit from simply enduring them? Should we disown our neighbor because of their yard sign, or remember that they spent an hour clearing our drive of snow when we returned from the maternity ward with our first? Sure, there may be a cumulative tipping point. Yet, what is the “final” cut? When can we take no more? With the incumbent aches and pains, are we missing a much larger picture? Are we suffering less than we think, or is it time to fully resist the march to an inevitable demise?