Suppose a distressed person on finding their pain decreased by anesthesia before surgery regularly starts anesthetizing themselves. This would deaden them in their capacity to experience life itself.
We frequently anesthetize ourselves from life’s distresses by exposing ourselves to a surfeit of material stimuli. Though physical sensations seem to activate, not anesthetize us, that activation is only in relation to the particular object of stimulation – overall, our capacity to experience life in its variety and richness becomes deadened.
Suppose a person anesthetizes themselves to their life’s problems by drinking. Though they feel heightened craving and excitement in relation with alcohol, that very obsession deadens their capacity to experience life’s other aspects such as a beautiful sunset – or even the distress that their loved ones are undergoing because of their alcoholism. And even in drinking, they soon become habituated to the levels of drinking they had earlier found intoxicating, thereby needing more drinks to feel high. Thus, they end up with their problems aggravated, not addressed.
To address our problems, we need to look straight in the eye at life’s inherent distressful nature. The Bhagavad-gita (13.09) indicates that unflinching analysis of life’s unavoidable miseries such as old age, disease and death characterizes knowledge. It impels us to explore a fundamental question: What makes us recoil at death and long for life eternal? Such exploration, when guided by Gita wisdom, enables us to understand our spiritual identity as souls, who are parts of the all-attractive whole, Krishna. The more we connect with him by practicing bhakti-yoga, the more our latent awareness of our spiritual identity and destiny becomes activated. And ultimately, we attain life eternal in pure spiritual love for Krishna.
When we avoid the anesthesia of materialism, life’s miseries impel us to seek and savor that supreme gain.