I wonder how many of us can look back on the genesis of our chronic illness as far back as previous generations where our parents or grandparents suffered injustice, and the stresses carried through into our own lives. So often I hope that whatever I have carried with me, handed down in part from my ancestors, part things that have happened to me, how often I hope that I’ve not inflicted too great a burden on my children. I don’t think we will ever be able to prevent diseases where our body turns on itself because the human tragedy is too great. But as individuals we do what we can, what we must, to ease our own burdens and try not to inflict more suffering on others.
A sunset one evening, streamers of orange across the Western sky; another evening, soft pink blushing the clouds in East and West, and streamers glowing mauve and pink. And I thought how very perfect this planet is, so very hospitable to burgeoning life.
Then another thought intrudes. How narrow is our definition of life! Of course this planet is perfect, we evolved here and know no other, we reshape it at our peril. But what if life should be defined another way? Not as the self-replicating activity of a certain pattern of elements but as the ability to perceive outside oneself, indeed to have a “self” with which to perceive.
What if intelligences exist which we cannot perceive? Something based perhaps on a different element, silicon instead of carbon? Or with a completely different way of relating to the universe? Perhaps even the rock at my feet, billions of years old, has an understanding and perception of its place in the universe far exceeding my fleeting carbon-based existence.
And from the infinite to the infinitesimal. Do the bacteria whose DNA in my body vastly outnumbers the human DNA, do these beings partake of my perceptions, or do I partake of theirs, or are we together in an endless feedback loop every day gaining in knowledge and wisdom, increasing our understanding of the universe and our place in it?
Sorry, been too busy to write original work this month, plus … well this blog post will help explain.
A Letter to Patients With Chronic Disease by Dr. Rob Lamberts
This is a re-post of a wonderful essay from a few years ago that delves into the reasons for the lack of understanding and empathy between doctors and their patients with chronic illness.
Dr. Lamerts gives good advice for how we pain patients can approach our doctors to get them on our side, instead of alienating them.
Dear Patients: You have it very hard, much harder than most people understand. Having sat for 16 years listening to the stories, seeing the tiredness in your eyes, hearing you try to describe the indescribable, I have come to understand that I too can’t understand what your lives are like.
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Recipe for a life: one cup of joy dealt generously in childhood, then sparingly until it seems no more meagre drops can be shaken into the mix. Is it all in the brain, as childhood’s neurons spark, carving channels through malleable tissue? Then things stiffen, jell, until no emotions can move save perhaps an occasional discharge of anger or grief?
But then a morning when
the night before
Venus and Mars paraded across the heavens
this morning two more sparks, Jupiter, Saturn,
heading into the West
until the sun drowns us all in light.
We have always wanted to go into the West.
How could we not with this stately
diurnal/nocturnal parade of light that moves
always, always into the West?
So we go into the West where the fountain of joy is,
and everywhere the flutter of wings, restlessly waiting,
ducks, starlings, pigeons,
flowers of frost, the harbour calm as a bowl of milk,
distant ships that will never find the port I seek.
Gulls cry, cutting the morning apart.
The weather must have been much more like Spring in 2002 when this was written.
Today is one of those days
when you know you will live forever.
The Goddess awakens, thrusting green fingers
through last year’s decay.
Twigs unfold leaves, tiny wings
green flames bright with life.
Just beyond reach, birdsong
threads the lambent sky with joy.
The sun rests on the horizon
like a newlaid egg
full, full, full of promises
and no regrets.
Awakened by the seasalt air
my adamantine soul
imperishable as the universe
warms and grows a little
and I know that I will live forever.
Winter field: two crows
playing leapfrog in the snow.
Joy lands in my heart.
This miracle planet filled with life irresistibly arising from the inanimate, a chunk of motley stardust learning how to see itself. How did awareness blossom, escaping from crucibles of mathematics, physics, chemistry? What does the planet think of its experiment now that it is overrun with undisciplined, invasive monkeys?