philosophy

 Lessons in pain

Sharp pain slices through the nerves running from the base of my neck into my right shoulder blade. I inhale quickly and hold my breath, there is probably a physioligical reason for this reaction, I make a mental note of where the pain is. My immediate reaction is to turn my torso in varying degrees until I find a position where the pain eases. It hurts to stand, to walk, to sit. I must try to remember what I’m thinking so that I can record the cognitive response to pain. What is shifting within me, how is my sense of being changing whilst in pain? Virginia Woolf wrote about pain, must find the piece. I swallow two ibuprofin, throw caution to the wind and take two more, I’m feeling desperate. The desire for relief supersedes rational thinking. Pain draws me into myself. The depth of field of my consciousness narrows. My immediate surroundings become annoying clutter. The presenter speaking on breakfast TV is becoming distorted. Her usually annoying laugh is amplified and some of my pain is redirected as anger towards her. The degree of hostility I feel towards her and her equally vacuous co-presenter is disproportiante to their ineptitude. Pain enlarges whatever emotional pain is already present.

This is what it may feel like to die, a weariness of the body, a soft unspoken desire to let it go. I know very well I am not dying but I am alerted to my mortality. This is a forced re-acquaintance with destiny, a little preparation for the final assault. I carefully navigate the passage and suddenly the thought that I am not alone in the house is hugely significant. My wife is making coffee in the kitchen and all of my children are asleep in their beds, that comforts me. I experience a rising wave of emotion when my wife asks how I am feeling and am deeply grateful that I am cared for. I have no real regrets as I realign my identity as husband and father, time well spent on earth. The other worries which yesterday overshadowed me, the unfinished manuscripts, ideas not acted upon – they are insignificant now; fallout from a burning ego. Actually, the garden I worked on last week suddenly seems more important than the dozens of cerebral projects.

Then there is relief from the pain, like being dipped into a warm marshmallow. The metaphor is bizarre but enters consciousness at about this time. I walk outside, unsteady (so this is what it must feel like to be old) and slowly take up residence on a patio chair. Descend into it with ridiculous deliberation. Now I feel the warm sun on my skin, feel like a fatigued lizard. But I am strangely grateful that I can move my toes with ease, feel the grains of sand from an antheap beneath my foot, see a snail navigate the teeth of an aloe leaf, hear a magpie lark and feel its melody in my heart. Is this me or the effects of the pain killers? I make a silent promise to myself that henceforth I shall first be grateful I am alive before I worry or entertain regrets. Pain can teach, there are lessons even though we desire less of it.

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philosophy, suburbia

 The resistance movement

 

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I plant flowers in September  that will be dead by March . They die, I remove them, clear the beds and plant new ones. I water the plants daily that I have placed into the ground. The late afternoons of summer are cool when the Fremantle Doctor blows. Then he catches the spray from the hose and blows it back into my face. I will often water the higher leaves of the trees and sit and listen to the drops tap the flat leaves of the Agapanthas. The white Petunias grow rapidly, wild almost after I feed them epsom salts diluted with water and SeasoL. The smaller violets have spread in all directions. I’m finding them between the pavers. They are creating their own story here, going their own way. Their colour and beauty are pleasant but they never last. Those I thought were strong have died and the dogs regularly pee on one plant in particular. It has at last surrendered and died. There is a constantly flattened patch of Violets that the cat has claimed as her own. I feel frustrated at their lack of consideration for my efforts to create beauty in this reclaimed seaside desert. They shit and sleep on the fruits of my labour. As I attempt to bend nature to my will, they express their nature effortlessly. Toilet and rest, the common denominators. Effort is perhaps contrary to my nature? But I persist, season after season because that is what one does. I recall somewhere a garden of remembrance where the ashes of the dead are cast out, where the living go to remember them among flowers. We are like flowers and this is a garden of persistence. A resistance movement.  Really it is a war. I plant, I water, weeds reappear, the sun sucks the plants dry, they die. Those that survive die when winter arrives. By June few have survived. I forget the garden in winter, I bend to nature.  In late August the war continues.

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poetry

Officio Rex

 

They navigate us,
Boats at sea
from windowless offices:
•river views with underground parking.
•3rd storey (higher purpose).
•air conditioned at 21°C (stable).

Creating circulars to circumnavigate the bold.
Contextualizing the world (one circular at a time).
Reviewing them that create it.
Coordinating the rules that govern them.
Grading and paying them.
Your opinion is
important to them.

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