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A lifelong lesson from a spicy pepper and a cheap train


Marjan Apostolovic - Shutterstock

Brian Schumacher - published on 06/05/23

The woman on the radio found a way to gain control of the pain, and make it work for her.

I did not plan this well. It was suggested to me that I take a day trip to Viterbo, a small medieval city outside of Rome. So I booked a train, was very pleased with how cheap it was, and set out. All good, right? Well, quickly, it became clear why the ticket was so cheap. The train stopped at every station in Rome before finally leaving the city. We’re talking every five minutes, stop, then go, then stop. You can probably imagine how that felt physically, you get going for a bit – then you’re jerked to a halt, only to be teased once again with smooth-sailing travels then bam – jerked again. You can’t get into a groove. 

I’ve always enjoyed being in transit, I love “going there”more than I love “getting there,” but this was awful. I could feel the patience leaching out of me with each screeching halt. I even saw the impatience display itself physically: my fingers wrapping on my knee, the same knee that was bouncing up and down incessantly. And that’s precisely when grace hit.

It was in that moment that I smirked to myself, it being made perfectly clear how perfectly impatient I was. I also remembered a radio interview I listened to years ago about people who found a quasi-transcendental experience through pain. Specifically I remember one woman who talked about eating an insanely hot pepper. She described her physical reaction beautifully, almost to the point where I felt I had eaten the pepper. Then things took an interesting turn, she said she let herself be overwhelmed by the pain. She gave up fighting and let herself succumb. In doing so, she found a way to gain control of the pain, and make it work for her. She simply gave herself fully to the experience and by doing so was able to claim a type of liberty from it.

“Interesting trick,” I thought. I decided to try it out. Certainly this was much easier to handle than your body being inflamed by super spicy food. Turns out I was right. I simply let myself succumb to the situation, not trying to fight it. In that humility I found peace, freedom and, most importantly for me, the joy of being in transit. 


This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

The Human Being Fully Alive
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