So, we are fascinated by Westworld. Billed as a science-fiction thriller where humans live out their fantasies with AI-induced hosts, Westworld is actually about much more. It asks the question, “What does it mean to be human?” and has a running theme of “pain” as the crux of consciousness. The hosts are wiped clean after every trauma but soon begin to remember. Is this what pushes them toward consciousness?
In the real world, humans of course can’t have their memories erased. We carry them around. They may act as shields or barriers or even medals. Our experiences do shape us and inform who we are and the choices we make. Sometimes for good; sometimes to our detriment. But it’s worth asking: does pain make us human?
I don’t do a lot of what if anymore, where I would run through my life and consider alternatives. What if my mom would have lived? What if my father would have been a part of my life? What if I never had cancer? There are a million other ways my life could have gone. I have no idea if I’d be the same person without pain, but my guess is no.
Westworld also has a recurring thought about loss, that the pain from loss (in the show it’s the loss of a child) is all someone has left. I’ve written about this before. That my pain is what makes me know it was real, that my mom and her love and devotion to me were real. I long ago stopped trying to shred it, but it’s also no longer my armor. You don’t have to be consumed by your pain in order to hang onto it. It’s not going anywhere. I won’t miraculously wake up one morning and have a whole heart again.
If I had to answer the question, then I’d say yes, pain does make us human. I don’t think any of us are pain free, however, some have led a more comfortable life. If given the choice, I’d say many would opt for that comfortable life. Not me. I’ll take the pain. I’ll take all the good and bad that came with my life. I didn’t choose the pain. I didn’t ask to be born. But I choose to live this life that I have and make the best of it. Without this life and in turn this pain, I wouldn’t be able to write things like this with such passion. My voice would more subdued; my thoughts more simple.
Westworld has been a ride in its first season. I was so eager for every second of it, reminding me of my obsession over Lost. But like any great piece of art, it made me think about my own place in the world and question it. I’m glad to be aware of where I’ve been and where I am. And, I would always choose the pain even if enchanting Dr. Ford told me he’d wipe it all away.