No-nude Mondays and why do we make voluntary suffering a virtue?

Colorado River - 011413
In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time. - Leonardo da Vinci
I had a great weekend scoping locations, photographing a model, and gallivanting around the northern California area.  You will see photos from those experiences in the next few days.

Part 1 - Water

I really like photographing boundaries.  The photo above is the Colorado  River, a few dozen miles south of Lake Mead and Hoover Dam.  Across the river is Arizona.  While being a geographical boundary, it is also the boundary between parched desert and water.  We are drawn to water, especially where water is the rarity and not the usual.

Part 2 - Suffering snobbery.

It has been cold in this area of California for a few days.  Many of my Montana family and friends would not bat an eye at the temps, but I felt the cold.  Since I left Montana, family members love to brag about the extreme cold, heat, dry, or snowy conditions it is back there and how it makes them a tougher group; ergo, better than those living in temperate locals. .  If they get into how they are underpaid for doing jobs that reward much better elsewhere while also suffering such weather hardships, they condescend to others from their saintly perches.

I live in the state with the most Americans in it (roughly 1 out of 8 Americans live here).  It has the highest and the lowest points of the lower 48 states.  California's economy trades places with France as which is larger.  We have snow, ocean coast, and desert.  I drive through traffic and by cities that have more people than Montana.  Does this make me a better person than anyone else. Nope.  I chose to live in a place where the weather is much more moderate and the traffic sucks.  I chose to live in a state that has well-paying jobs.  I now have a home in Nevada, where the summer temps are above 110 and only cools to mid 90's at night.  Does that make me a tougher person and better than others?  No.  It was just a choice.

In this age, migrating between states is not that hard compared to a hundred years.  If you choose to live in hardship areas and have the ability to move, then that may say more about your judgement.  As a friend once told me, "In most parts of life, suffering is optional."


  1. I think almost all humans are drawn to water by the simple logic of it being a kindred spirit to all that we carry in our bodies each day. I enjoy the water immensely. I suppose it’s because I grew up in Michigan with a bounty of it. I like to be able to be in it, to observe it’s movement, or lack of as with ice. I still am amazed at the deception and power it shows. We have a small river on the property in Michigan. To look at it from the bank it seems barely moving, yet stand waist deep and it pushes you over. I enjoy the boundary as you mention. The restriction of movement; the path always ends at the water or because of the lack of it. There is that wonderful place where liquid meets the land and how it changes it. The change can be a quick change of a beach or soil river bank in a storm; or the relentless perseverance of the slapping wave or swift stream against the resistance of solid stone. Large bodies of water that produce large waves can bring a treasure from the deep; yet the waves can also swiftly snatch something treasured back into the deep just as easily. Of course we can’t have waves without the other great fluid – air.

    As for suffering – without it, real or perceived, you would not have much of an economy.

    "Few can believe that suffering, especially by others, is in vain. Anything that is disagreeable must surely have beneficial economic effects." — John Galbraith

    Suffering is one of the human emotions that everyone can have and everyone can share – misery loves company. I think the physical suffering you mentioned harks back a bit to the early days of our harsh realities of settling into this big country. They felt the suffering had merit – it made you or broke you. As for your Montana folks I don’t think many really suffer in their environment. It’s the vague memories and stories of, that bring comfort now. My grandmother told as a small child of the family sometimes not having enough coal to fire the stove at night and if someone didn’t get up on those real frigid nights to replenish the wood; the water bucket in the kitchen would have ice on it. As a kid I did sleep at my grandparents house in the winter and as there was no heat upstairs then, many a winter morning you could see your breath while lying in bed. You didn’t take long to get dress though. Oh how I suffered. lol

    As a kid when we would complain about something my grandfather used the old adage – well I had to walk five miles to school (he did actually) as a small boy, uphill; but it was the five miles back up the hill at the end of the day that was the worst. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood the suffering of the second uphill. It wasn’t the and couldn’t be; physical hill – it was the mental one. He enjoyed school, was smart and recognized. He dreaded going home each day to the hard chores still to be done and being just another one of the kids at the farm table.

    "Suffering is by no means a privilege, a sign of nobility, a reminder of God. Suffering is a fierce, bestial thing, commonplace, uncalled for, natural as air. It is intangible; no one can grasp it or fight against it; it dwells in time -- is the same thing as time; if it comes in fits and starts, that is only so as to leave the sufferer more defenseless during the moments that follow, those long moments when one relives the last bout of torture and waits for the next." — Cesare Pavese

    As for being a virtue, I think it’s more like a badge of honor or courage. People’s perception is one of, my suffering is worse, where I live, my employer, my job, my commute, my ex-wife, my kids, my life, than yours. It’s like an accomplishment – see I have suffered – but I’m still ok. Like you say – we each choose our own suffering. We each suffer in our own eyes.

    D.L. Wood

    1. D.L. I agree with much of your sentiment. I guess though that I know I am not suffering much, and where I am, I don't see it as badge of honor. It is just what I am living through.

  2. Karl, for some reason we seem to romanticize suffering in our youth and then, by old age, some of us have had enough of it. I increasingly want to focus on the pleasurable and good, health rather disease, and the privilege to be happy (rather than the privilege to suffer, thanks D.L.).

    On the other hand, some of my peers find nothing better to talk about than their arthritis or hip surgery or regrets about their lives.

    And I know I am, as Tennessee Williams said in a late interview, "a very angry old man," although I am a woman of course. Some of us gather a rage over the years about those who impose their own grief on others and try to make life harder for everyone when it is already plenty hard enough.

    The ramblings of a madwoman. Sorry.


So,what are you thinking about?