Monday, April 9, 2007
The lengths to which disassociation goes to quarantine the "immediate here and now"
Not seven hours ago, I was in extreme pain in the ER of my local hospital, and now that pain has subsided. Apparently, it was a gallstone, but the specifics aren't really relevant here. What's relevant is that I'm already trying to put that bad event behind me.
I'd like to take a quick check of the definition of "disassociation" on MapMyWord Dictionary, which is one of the best Google gadgets around, we have:
●the state of being unconnected in memory or imagination
●a state in which some integrated part of a person's life becomes separated from the rest of the personality and functions independently
It is so easy for us to dissociate ourselves with events and people that are distanced by time and/or space, such as an earthquake or tsunami or the bombs of war dropping half-way across the world. Or the lives of civil war soldiers or antebellum slaves, or the lives of migrant workers back in the "Grapes of Wrath" days. Or the lives of future generations who will struggle with global warming, or with any of the many things we're putting into place.
For all of them, its much easier to disconnect, and focus on our immediate surroundings, and on today. We focus on the assignment due next week for school or work. We may tend to focus on the problems we see in our own lives or our own community, even if they pale in comparison to those of a neighbor, or of the problems still going on in New Orleans.
In my case, while I was suffering and one of three guys laying on the floor of an emergency room in Oakland (among about twenty people all waiting to be seen), in between agonizing bouts of pain, I thought about how important it is that the U.S. healthcare system become more robust and more equipped to serve people in oh so many ways that extend well beyond better emergency rooms. Now that its several hours later and I feel better enough as if almost a different person, that passionate thinking has begun to become unconnected in my memory. I think this happens to all of us to some degree, but I pray to every form of divinity and humanity that I and You and We can struggle against this.
Considering the first half of the definition of 'disassociation', we can strengthen our imagination to envision people suffering across the world, rather than disconnecting from them, addressing them only through the TV, or not at all. We can strengthen our imagination to envision what kind of life we've inherited from past generations, and what kind of life we are building for future generations, who we CAN imagine, but will never meet face-to-face.
Considering the second half of that definition, when we're disassociated, we separate a part of our life from us. A part which we would do well to acknowledge as integral to our existence. I imagine that our shoes are put together in a factory near a recent tsunami. There may be Jews who have been through the holocaust who have given the sagest of advice to others, who may have passed it along to me. There is somebody from the recent past who looks like me, who was suffering from long lines at a medical facility, but now I would want to separate him away and function independently from that person's desires? To stay connected, we have to pay attention to our extended connections and give them the benefit of our imagination and our compassion.
Actually, as an added bonus, today while I was laying on the floor with abdominal pain and chest pain, and it got bad enough, it reminded me of some super-severe chest pain I experienced back in 1996 that went unrelieved for quite a spell. I was younger then and more able to hack it, but still.... I recall at the time wanting to get a tattoo on my left palm (kind of like those notes we leave for ourselves to make an appointment for a haircut, or to pick up milk). I wanted the tattoo just to say "REMEMBER THIS." I never did get that tattoo for practical reasons (certain frequently used areas of the skin tend to rub away and the tattoos get really bad), but I've remembered it all this time.
lyrics: some Bangles on vinyl
colors: red, white, black, brown. my mom just sent us an article about a little jack russell terrier who plays with an eight pound red bowling ball
chant/prayer/mantra: stereo MCs - connected.