22 February 2014
I've been noticing lately that I have been feeling somewhat sick at heart. An abandonment, sort of, a longing for something I used to find, but that quality seems lost on others. When I couldn't find this in others, I would retreat to the woods to ramble for timeless hours or perhaps take my camera to the garden with a macro lens to see the very tiny that surrounds us. Its rare to find someone who can meet me where I am. Someone who doesn't have to fill the space where sound exists with a constant stream of verbalizations. Someone who understands the space between words reveals an empty tableau that could become anything, not necessarily audio, much as seeing beyond a picket fence reveals another scene in the distance – perhaps the tree in a neighbor's yard.
I've had this affinity for the non-specified since about early childhood. I could find something that no one else noticed and be fascinated for hours. Art, then photography intrigued me, over time the balance of the elements slowly revealed themselves and the ability to manipulate elements of the scene to evoke ideas and emotions became suddenly open to me. I had found that reality if, given time, would speak to me more completely than the way most people use words. In my beginning years at college most classes were presented in boring, lecture format. I can't be too critical though, most people have only been exposed the the expository form of sharing information.
Rather than using words in a fashion that turns everything into an object to be connected in a linear fashion, so sense can be constructed to give to others, the slower, more complete method was completely ignored. By the time I finished my masters degree, I thought there must be a better way. I was lucky to find the Center for Humanistic Studies in Detroit. There I learned that there is an academic way of learning that was not like every other graduate school. There was the usual reading and lots of it. But the topic was very different. We were exposed to authors like Heidegger, Polyani, Maslow, and Rogers and had discussions for classes about the readings, our understandings and felt sensations resulting from the experiential exercises we had undergone.
There is something that turns inside of you when the shift is away from word based, material based manipulation of information as a way of communicating and being with another. Colors become more vibrant, sounds become more significant, even the squeak of a chair has something to offer. Classmates take on a vibrancy and seem more dimensionally real and less like ships passing in the night. There were no notes from these experiential exercises, it was a matter of being there. And yet at the end of each semester, for each class we were to write a scholarly paper about what we had learned using these experiences.
Those who were very familiar with more standard forms of education often had problems with the format, those who were more artistic, wrote poetry, danced, played music, thrived. We had to know all of the standard material, for the licensing exams were based on this, yet the school managed to slip in enough of the experiential approach to make the program unique.
After school I missed the special camaraderie that my classmates shared so easily. I found, doing couples work, that even most married people don't share this level of openness with one another. Most people speak in the pattern that they have always known. It seemed as if I was a castaway on a desert plain, acres of desiccation. Years ago Dire Straits had a song that describes this situation perfectly, Water of Love. Things seem so drained of life. There are signs that things haven't always been this way, but it sure is now.
I used to go for a walk in the woods for my dose of the non-ordinary reality, there is no woods around here, nor any walking either. In the warmer months I can get outside, there is even a small raised planter that brings some simple petunias up to wheelchair height, now its buried in snow, the only flowers in here are plastic. Its difficult to lose one's self gazing at those, images of the petrochemical industry keep intruding.
At least one CENA on every shift enjoys visiting with me and we can begin a number of discussions, but I seem to have generated an alternate reputation in that part way into a discussion a different CENA will poke her head in the door and say to the first CENA, “Oh here you are, I thought that you might be here, I need help with the woman in 312.” There are the dangling ends if many interrupted, unfinished discussions hanging about. Some still throbbing with vitality, others desiccated, dry and stiff from too long left hanging.
It amazes me how facilities such as this seek to look after the resident's physical needs, but have little idea about the person's mental and emotional needs or how to meet them. At times it seems that I speak a foreign tongue. I know the words are heard, the blank look on the faces tell me there is a struggle to understand exactly what is being said. What could I be talking about?
I can only read some of my old texts for so long. Its like seeing shadows of some former times through a gauze veil. The hint of the fresh breeze that was, is just a stagnant pocket of air now.
Send Spring soon … please!
John Whiting '00