By Jose Leonardo Santos
Jose Leonardo Santos is an anthropologist and assistant professor of social science at Metropolitan State University.
Pain is one of our great assets as a species. It teaches us what is dangerous. It shows us the things to avoid.
Intelligence is another asset. It helps us think and remember our pain. It helps us find the best ways to avoid being hurt.
Six years ago I was in El Salvador, doing research and trying to avoid scorpions and gangs. Then came a phone call from home, telling me that my best friend, my dog Abra, had died.
I spiraled into pain. I cried. I drank. I wandered the streets. Talking was painful. To see people smiling was painful.
I remembered her happy face, her warm eyes and loving nature. She would check on me in the night. I fell asleep thinking of her. I missed her fur and the sound of her tail slapping against the bed. I missed her bark.
My intelligence was there to guide me. Why was I in pain? How could I avoid it ever happening again? I was in pain because I'd loved and lost. If I shut myself off, if I forsook love, I would not get hurt again.
I was still in pain when I returned home. I would see a child playing with a dog, or I'd pass a pet store, or a friend would post a dumb pet photo on Facebook, and I would hurt. I refused companionship. I refused to have a dog again. But I woke up in the mornings reaching for her.
Pain and intelligence teach us. They aid us. But they cannot save us from ourselves. Through intelligence, I avoided new pain. But the old pain could not disappear.
Intelligence, I realized, is of limited value. It teaches us to avoid pain. Wisdom is greater. It teaches us that pain has its place.
My pain is the echo of a beautiful love. The love is greater than the echo. All love is greater than any pain that follows from it. Love is stronger than death.
Last month I made a new best friend. He is strong, but timid. Playful, yet gentle. His fur is the color of newly fallen snow. His howl is like a wolf's. And he is quite content to lie around on the couch.
My intelligence tells me of the pain I will feel. Within 15 years, my best friend will die. Wisdom tells me to feel no fear. It tells me to love him with all my heart.