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                    Recovering the pain

What does it mean to say "yes" to life, physically?  Recovering the pain is a retrieval of the emotional and physical difficulty contained, as Emmanuel Levinas would phrase it, "in our being alive," and an insistence on the significance of that difficulty for life. It is a work for the feeling that survives in the rigours of our living, a work that exposes the pain by which we are moved to life and recovers the pain by which we know that we are alive.

If living is painful, the orthodox assumption that pain is an unpraiseworthy experience may be held to be negligent. The dubious aesthetic, medical, and psychological grounds upon which this assumption and the accompanying removal of hindrances rests deserve scrutiny. This dissertation diagnoses in these discourses a phobia about the pathos of lingering. Is the prejudice against pain internal to life? Life defrauds our expectation to "become well, again," to forsake difficulty, because life does not seek relief. To be prejudiced against difficulty is to be prejudiced against the weight incurred by living.

Against the various forms of relief sought by the living, this work cares about what it means to live honestly in the depth of the experience. This is not just a religious issue, it is ethical, where ethics originates in the physical complication of living. Extending across phenomenology, psychoanalysis, Jewish ethics and theology, philosophy of medicine, and performance studies, this work asks what it means to do justice to life physically and delivers, in response, an heretical moral and theological physiology. In its concern with the honor of feeling, it situates devotion and ethics physically. Challenging the existential credentials of religious practice, it discovers a new meaning in masoretic belonging: there is no masorah (Jewish tradition) without experience.  Involvement in the feeling is experiential; it cannot be taught, it requires living through.