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I want to talk to you today about pain. About humanity. About striving, craving, wanting, revolting, shying, flinching, and retreat.

I want to talk to you about an epiphany.

I want to talk to you about self harm.

We are driven, we humans are, to test, to experiment, to explore both the world our bodies live in and the bodies that lives in the world.  Our minds, delicate and amorphous, are as hard to fasten down to a point as a jelly on a bulletin board.  Unmoored, our inscrutable ethereal selves demand confirmation, negation, and proof that we are real.

We respond, us corporeal beings, by telling our incorporeal elements to get bent.  We shut them up as best we can. We inflict indignities upon ourselves to keep us in our places. Work, booze, television, drugs, gossip: pain.  We confirm and negate as we beat ourselves up in one way or another.  We are real, so real, even as we wish we could not be.

What is your blade?  What is your red-hot match head?  What mortifies your flesh to alleviate your spirit?
What reinforces your humanity in all its profanity?

When I am all out of sorts with myself in the world, when I can barely stand to live in the hide that binds me, I take to the hills.  I must ride, as hard and as uphill as I can.  My lungs must burn, my thighs must ache, my forearms corded against the torque I am inflicting on the bars as I lever my way up, out of the saddle and throwing down my all, the biggest, nastiest, least-compromising hills I can find.

I thrash the evil out of me, for the moment, in sweat, in pain, in gasping breaths and knotted muscles.  I run from the devils that call me their own, my sweat-slick hide eluding their grasping claws as I rise above the turmoil, if only for a brief respite.  I spin and accelerate or grind and trundle up from the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole.  I break for that sunlit upland, a gleaming plateau of catharsis and endorphins, where for (perhaps) a long moment, I can draw a deep breath, awash in the satisfaction and security of knowing that I can run, even if I cannot hide.

The anxiety, the sadness, the uncertainty, the static and sturm und drang may once again wax and eclipse me, but I can and I do know how to blast them away.  Pain.  Good, life-affirming, expurgating pain.  Excoriation. Catharsis. Absolution.  Paying the penalty for my humanity, one incline at a time.

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