written about 3 a.m.

At the moment I want to change half of the old saying that “Man proposes, God disposes” and say “pain disposes.” Pain obliterates every project, plan, and inspiration. At least that is what happens at the worst moments of the excruciating toothache I have. After three weeks of moderate pain escalating to a couple of sleepless nights, I will be seeing a dentist today and hope a solution wil come.

Ajan Chah, the Thai forest monk, tells a couple of stories about toothache. Once, alone in the forest, he suffered a horrendously painful episode. He could not lie down or sit. He tried walking meditation but that did not help. He sat again to meditate, breathing carefully, and mindfully, through the pain. A moment came at last when he no longer identified with the pain and made a breakthrough. A dull pain lingered but nothing like before.

In another story Ajan Chah tells how he could feel tooth pain coming on but the next moment a tooth popped out and rolled about in his mouth. He took it out and looked at it and remarked: “I guess I must be getting old.”

But the solitary traveler Bob Kull, described in the March 25, 2005, entry of Hermits Around the Web, is memorable. Kull, a scientist spending a year alone on a southern Chilean island far from human contact, went so far as to self-extract a painful tooth using just a mirror and old pliers — and a great deal of courage!

I need to read the survival handbook entitled What to Do When There is No Dentist. The book describes itself as offering not remedies until the doctor arrives but remedies because there will be no doctor. I’m sure I am not ready for that, or for Ajan Chah’s meditative strength of mind, or Bob Kull’s strength of heart. I am overturned and disposed. Pain is one step at a time, like climbing a mountain, and though I have had my share over the years, no sleight of hand on my part can make up for sheer courage.

written about 3 p.m.

Aha! The problem was a wisdom tooth. It was extracted, and the pain is gone. … A dog in pain will bite its master. Well, farewell, old tooth. We have been together for many years …