Early on in Dune, Paul Atreides is given the “test of the Gom Jabbar.” As it says on the appropriate Dune fandom page:
“The gom jabbar test would be to determine whether an individual’s awareness was stronger than their instincts. If their awareness of the gom jabbar’s presence was strong enough, it would override their instincts to withdraw from the test, which usually involved great physical pain.”
The idea being that Paul would prove his humanity by overcoming the animal instinct that commands him to flinch away from physical pain.
I’m still reading the Dune trilogy. I’m also reading N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy.
Part of the first volume, The Fifth Season, follows a young girl. She is an “orogene”–meaning she can manipulate the earth around her. In her world, however, orogenes are both feared and reviled. Orogene children, if discovered, are often killed by the communities they inhabit. So a Guardian–a mentor slash overseer–comes to collect this young girl before she can be harmed, or do harm to others. See, when threatened, orogenes reach instinctually for their power to protect themselves.
On the journey to the training centre, this little girl’s Guardian teaches her why she must never, ever lose control. He reminds her of the consequences, takes her hand in his and begins to crush it, little bone by little bone. He wants to see how she reacts. If she reaches. Like the Gom Jabbar, it is a test that pits pain against will.
Reading both Dune and Broken Earth has been thoroughly enjoyable. It has also raised a question: In the absence of an intimate relationship with physical pain, can one claim enlightenment? Like a fair weather friendship, what use a spiritual discipline or philosophy if it’s abandoned in times of extreme physical duress?
Going back to the best/worst case x best/worst self idea of the previous post, surely enlightenment can only assert itself in the lower left quadrant?