Archive for the 'hygiene (spiritual and otherwise)' Category

Whose brother or sister?

February 23, 2014

“’This isn’t the drug user of the 1970s. It’s your brother, your sister. It crosses all socioeconomic strata.’”

This is a quotation from “Max Sandusky, prevention and screening director for the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod” and it comes from an article in The Boston Globe called “Opiates taking heavy toll on Cape,” by Brian MacQuarrie, dated February 22, 2014.

Years ago when a child in one of our sons’ nursery school class died from strep, and a few months later our son came down with scarlet fever, just two days after having been examined by his pediatrician, someone important in the public health sector in the state government told my husband that nothing would likely be done about what was going on in the nursery school until the child of somebody important died.

It was pretty clear that someone in the school was a carrier — there were many strep cases at the school in addition to Jillian’s and our son’s — but no testing could be undertaken, nor could the staff member who seemed to be the carrier be asked to take steps to protect the children.  As I recall it, she had a connection to the health sector, perhaps through a second job, and the hypothesis was that she picked up bacteria at the facility but didn’t become ill from them.  And if it wasn’t she, then some sort of testing of everybody might have revealed a different pathway through which there was such an on-going and severe presence of strep in the school, even after vacation breaks.

In other words, it wasn’t just a single event during which children passed strep germs to each other;  and the public health official knew that.

We withdrew our child and found a new school for the fall.

There’s that set of lines from Richard Shindell’s song “Transit” about how “car thieves and crack dealers, mobsters and murderers [are someone’s] husbands and sons, fathers and brothers.”

When we are still picking and choosing whose lives are more and less important, we cannot yet congratulate ourselves on being “superior.”  It’s a paradox, resolved, it seems to me, by withdrawing the ego and no longer seeing the world in terms of competing groups.  We become “superior” (in the sense of “more elevated,” not in the sense of comparative elevation to others) by realizing that we are not.

We may pay more attention to an important public health problem now that more “important” people’s lives are involved, but we will not be resolving a more fundamental problem, and its manifestations in our society, until we stop with this “four legs good, two legs better” (Animal Farm, by George Orwell) attitude.


November 20, 2012

I had Tony the Treeman over last week to inspect some swamp maples, one of which shed a large limb during the Sandy storm.  I wondered from something I saw if there was some indication of rot or weakness elsewhere in the tree.

I took the opportunity towards the end of the conversation with Tony and my neighbor (the trees straddle the property line, I was told by the previous owner of the neighbor’s house) to ask about something I had noticed and puzzled me about the large trees toppled completely in storms.  Where are their large roots?  The general teaching I remembered was to expect a sort of mirror image in the root system of the limbs, branches, and canopy above the ground.  The bottoms of these tree stumps, even when they’re lying in place, don’t seem to have large roots.

Tony said insects.  Critters (I suspect Tony meant “insects” in a broad sense) eat away at the roots, then when there’s a storm, there’s much less anchoring the large tree and it topples.

That’s us, too, I think.  We don’t realize our root system has atrophied until we’re in that metaphorical storm.

What I notice is a “three-little-pig” syndrome.  If someone has established and maintained a healthy root system (analogous to the brick house built by the third little piggy), in a crisis others lean on that person.  I’m talking emotional leaning, not logistical help, which is much less draining.  One of the most helpful things I heard in a grief group at a neighbor’s church years ago was from a young widow on a video tape talking about how some of our problems cannot be handled by our fellow human beings, and how we overburden our relationships if we ask these people to try.  In her general vocabulary, some problems we need to bring to God, to ask for our help from God.  The help is much better (more helpful), too.  Some people, in my experience, who don’t believe in God or in some more impersonal concept of forces greater than ourselves and beyond our control, are happy to try to draft along, or worse, on another person’s strength through faith.

I’m willing to believe that some people have a different root system, one that also works in a crisis and is not one that I’ve referred to directly here, but my point is we need some functioning root system.  The insect issue brings to mind how we may be unaware of the damaged state of our root system.

I think we need to pay more attention to helping people develop their mental hygiene, so that they are not overwhelmed in a storm.  And even people with a pretty good system can have the experience of finding out it has weaknesses, and where they lie, during a storm.

Cats and Bunnies

October 10, 2011

An old friend of mine had had a CAT scan and was regaling me with an account of the experience.  And he was a really good storyteller and loved me as an audience, in part because he could pull my leg very successfully.  So, Sam is building up layer upon layer of detail and suspense about how they prepare you for the scan, to enter the machine, etc., and then he says, with great intensity and a glint in his eye, “And then you see it!”  To which I reply, “See what?”  “The cat!”

I could go on, but let me switch to bunnies.

I saw one while I was taking a shower today.  Not in the bathroom — out the window in the yard (the window is above the tub).  It was under some ferns, and at first I thought it was a cat sitting, but then I realized it was probably a large rabbit (this was estimating without the help of my glasses).  Later I confirmed that it was indeed a large bunny.  And since I was taking pictures for someone who has offered to help me find a couch, I took a couple of the bunny.

And then it was gone.  When I went out again, it had disappeared, as rabbits will do, down holes or in search of more food or whatever bunnies do.

I think it’s really all about seeing oneself clearly once even fleetingly and only for a glimpse, at my stage of self-awareness, that is.  I’m in the shower, metaphorically without all my usual gambits and habits, even without the lenses through which I see the world.  And that’s when I see it, Sam’s cat, my rabbit: the self.  I suspect at other stages I would sustain the vision, but now I don’t, I see it briefly and then it’s gone.  And I think what I’ve come to learn is that that’s okay, it’s not a failing of mine but a characteristic of a particular experience.