Posts Tagged With: candle trick

Pain? “The trick is not minding that it hurts.”

Excerpts from Wikipedia…

  • Gaius Mucius Scaevola was a Roman youth, famous for his bravery.
  • In 508 BC, during the war between Rome and Clusium, the Clusian king Lars Porsena laid siege to Rome. Mucius, with the approval of the Roman Senate, sneaked into the Etruscan camp with the intent of murdering Porsena. Since it was the soldiers’ pay day, there were two similarly dressed people, one of whom was the king, on a raised platform speaking to the troops. This caused Mucius to misidentify his target, and he killed Porsena’s scribe by mistake. After being captured, he famously declared to Porsena: “I am Gaius Mucius, a citizen of Rome. I came here as an enemy to kill my enemy, and I am as ready to die as I am to kill. We Romans act bravely and, when adversity strikes, we suffer bravely.” He also declared that he was the first of three hundred Roman youths to volunteer for the task of assassinating Porsena at the risk of losing their own lives.
  • “Watch,” he is said to have declared, “so that you know how cheap the body is to men who have their eye on great glory.” Mucius thrust his right hand into a fire which was lit for sacrifice and held it there without giving any indication of pain, thereby earning for himself and his descendants the cognomen Scaevola, meaning ‘left-handed’. Porsena was shocked at the youth’s bravery, and dismissed him from the Etruscan camp, free to return to Rome, saying “Go back, since you do more harm to yourself than me”. At the same time, the king also sent ambassadors to Rome to offer peace.
  • Mucius was granted farming land on the right-hand bank of the Tiber, which later became known as the Mucia Prata (Mucian Meadows).
  • It is not clear whether the story of Mucius is historical or mythical.
  • Dante Alighieri refers to Mucius and the sacrifice of his hand within the Divine Comedy. In Paradiso Canto 4: 82-87, along with St. Lawrence, Mucius is depicted as a person possessing the rarest and firmest of wills.
  • Gordon Scott portrayed Mucius in the sword-and-sandal film Hero of Rome (1964), a film loosely based on this story.
  • The same “trick” was also attributed to T. E. Lawrence in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence (played by Peter O’Toole) extinguishes a match with his thumb and forefinger. Seeing this, the character Potter tries it. Potter: “Ow! It damn well hurts!” Lawrence: “Certainly it hurts.” Potter: “Well what’s the trick then?” Lawrence: “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.” This scene is played in the 2012 film Prometheus.
  • A similar hand-burning feat of endurance was famously performed by G. Gordon Liddy. It involved holding his hand over a lighter flame until the flesh burned. According to the Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward book All the President’s Men (1974), Liddy did this once at a dinner party. When someone asked “What’s the trick?” He replied, “The trick is not minding.” When Liddy entered prison for his Watergate crimes he allegedly used this trick to intimidate other inmates.

My perspective…

Perhaps it’s not just bravery and mental toughness. Pain can fog the mind – make clear thinking difficult, and burn up a lot of physical energy.

When suffering from a painful illness or injury, perhaps such thinking can be applied, such mental strength.

  • “A placebo (/pləˈsiːboʊ/ plə-see-boh; Latin placēbō, “I shall please” from placeō, “I please”) is a simulated or otherwise medically ineffectual treatment for a disease or other medical condition intended to deceive the recipient. A person given such an ineffectual treatment will often have a perceived or actual improvement in their condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect or placebo response. Several different elements contribute to the effect, and the methods of placebo administration may be as important as the administration itself.” – Wikipedia.

I recall a true story an episode of the TV series M*A*S*H was partly based on. Medics ran our of morphine. They gave fake shots to wounded soldiers, who believed they were being given morphine. The fake shots reduced the pain in half of them. Mind over matter. The body and mind’s ability to treat itself.

Without the “trick” perhaps the mind can deliberately shut off the pain. Perhaps the real “trick” is learning how to do that.

Reported by Jim Lantern
Friday, 23 December 2016

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