The importance of this kind of pain is illustrated by an American boy who was born with no sense of pain. He was nine years old when his mother took him to the John Hopkins medical school in Baltimore one November day in 1937. We might think that not being able to feel any pain would be great. However this is what the examining doctor wrote in his report:
- Partial blindness in one eye because when he had sand in his eye he did not notice it until permanent damage had been done.
- Scars on almost every part of his body.
- Enormous scar across his buttocks where he had sat on a heater and did not notice until his flesh was burnt to the bone.
- One foot permanently deformed, as he had broken a bone and walked about on it for months before it was spotted.
- Both hands so badly cut that he would never again be able to straighten his fingers.
We can see that pain acts as a danger signal to the rest of us, but this unfortunate boy had nothing to warn him to stop and think when his body was being injured.
Many of us are willing to do things which we know could involve suffering if things go wrong. Do we consider the risks before we do them? Modern travel is one example. Many of us travel in cars, knowing of the suffering that could occur. Some of us, when thinking about the potential suffering involved in aeroplane accidents, decide that the risk is not worthwhile and do not travel by plane. Like suffering caused by minor injuries, the risk of suffering from accidents sometimes makes us stop and think about what we are going to do.
Many of us suffer as a direct result of the sort of life we choose to lead. In some countries, cigarettes carry a health warning, yet how many people ignore the warning and suffer the consequences later!
Some of us choose to eat too much of the wrong kinds of food and become overweight, with the increasing risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Because of immorality, AIDS is another problem that humanity has inflicted on itself.
All of these problems are warnings that we are abusing our bodies.