By Hoda Siahtiri

“Pain”, when I wanted to put my ideas in words, pain was the first and only present word in my mind to start with. As if without its recognition, the stream of my thoughts simply couldn’t flow. I struggled a bit and then told myself; actually, this tiny word is the drive and reason why I did this project and why I am here today.

I question why and how speaking about pain and listening to it became so difficult or even impossible? I understand that a painful matter indeed is painful, and as a natural, bodily reflex, we initially avoid being disposed of it.

Albeit, when we feel loss, pain appears in our body. Our body-mind, as I prefer not to divide them. As humans, most of us feel it in our flesh, veins and bones. In our psyche, even in our spirit. Elizabeth A. Wilson notes in her book, Gut Feminism, “how mind and guts are crucially entangled organs. The gut’s mind and the mind's guts. Gut is an organ that ruminates. Body way of thinking”.

I am an immigrant, living in the West for nearly a decade; nevertheless, the question of ‘Pain’ considers ‘I’ as the one who is as well a product of globalism. As far as I know, the process of grief or the operation of encountering pain and accepting loss is essential in many cultures, especially the old ones. Bodies struggling or passing through pain are instead embraced by the community, and collective grieving is the whole community’s response towards the member or family group dealing with loss. There is no shame in being in sorrow and no stigmatisation, ignorance or abandonment. One of the reasons is that the division in understanding the personal and communal are perceived differently.

Julietta Singh says on this subject in her book, No Archive Will Restore You: “There is something haunting me about the fact that I lean on contemporary feminist new materialist discourse to account for the fact that the body is not and has never been singular. Something haunting about the fact that the non-singularity of the body, its vital engagement with other kinds of bodies, was once so obvious across cultures, geographies and histories that it did not need to be argued. Something changed, something was changed.

A monumental worldview swept in and tried – with brute force, with discipline, with pedagogy – to make us each one self. But there is a prolific past that tells a different story of the body as an infinite collection of bodies”.

Since when did listening and talking about pain and being in proximity to sorrow and loss turn into a shameful condition? Something to hide or to freeze?

What summoned, or as Julietta Singh says, forced us to an unintentional common agreement to avoid proximity to the pain of loss?

What are the circumstances that allowed this to happen?

Are the causes different in different parts of the world?

What type of being are we becoming in an environment where encountering hard emotions is labelled as disgraceful?

What sort of society doesn’t afford non-productive psychological states to its bodies?

When social behaviours and human relations in communities are pre-programmed based on systems of economic efficiency, what type of traditions of grief are we able to hold or create?

Would those collective traditions of grief end or be absorbed in favour of economic efficiency?

In these sorts of societies, what does mal efficiency mean? Who is a false member of such a society? A deteriorated person?

What are the notions defining a malfunctioning person? Based on which qualities? Sensitivity, vulnerability?

What are the qualities that accelerate this condition? Neurological assessment? Race? Colour? Gender? Social class? Economic background?

When I speak about encountering pain and going through collective practices of grief through mourning while criticising and voicing the lack of such collective spaces and traditions in our societies, I also have to draw your attention to the essence of the body of pain. What type of creature is the body in pain?! What type of knowledge is conveyed through such a body? To be deprived of the shared spaces of mourning and grief, what things are we deprived of? What type of body? What kind of knowledge?

Pain leaves traces, as all wounds do. A history of what has happened and what that body has been through. These traces are our body archive, a history of our body, and our embodied knowledge. Our body archive is an assembly of histories, the atoms deposited in oneself.

That’s where and how the notion of healing turns into finding common grounds to excavate in dark and painful places. To remedy those infected, hidden wounds. I do not think most human beings can make such a journey as an individual or in the routine of daily life. I see this process needs company. A community of bodies. bell hooks says: “Shared suffering is still one of the passions that binds us together”.

We need to change our point of view about our individual selves in body relations.

I also think there is a reason why most ancient mourning practices, like the Bakhtiari women’s lamentation tradition, which I personally had the opportunity to make small bounds with its magic, have voice, sound and music as vital elements of the process. A collective practice of encountering the pain of loss through resonance in sound, singing and weeping. Where stories of loss are sung and passed from one to the other member of the circle. Where the act of care is from each member of the circle holding space for the rest. Every woman in the circle is the teller of her story and the whole community. Stories of loss.

How could we have a shared space for the bodies of loss, bodies of knowledge? A safe space to welcome an unwanted monster. The monster of pain. How to hold such space blithely? Why are voice and sonic resonance vital in such practice?

Could our collective listening and voicing of pain be considered an act of resistance? Could it be an act that connects and unifies our bodies beyond our individual selves?