Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Postcard from an edge of darkness

Me: "Definitely the left."
Male Voice:  "Better than the right, or just because I'm on the left?"
Me: "The right's a bit busted up, the inside's deviated and stuff."
Female Voice: "I'll do the right then."

Time seems to pass. It's still dark.

Me: "No, that's not working.  Try again."
MV: "How's that?"
Me: (thinking) "I think it's too big"
MV: "But the right's no bigger..."
Me: "Right...haha...the left is better.  Try twisting to the left..."  Humour?  Really?

And the picture came clear for me.  A moment of apparently perfect synaesthesia, where I could see what I was feeling as if from a point within my own body, so I could act as a better guide.

Me: "OK, that really hurts; you might have to go smaller"  And interestingly, I knew it hurt, but was not in the least bit troubled by the pain.
MV: "Does the pain trouble you?  Sorry about that"
Me: "No, it's fine, we'll just try again.  Just thought you'd want to know if it hurt."
FV: "I'll have a look and make sure it's OK, .......how's that?"
Me: (flooded with this wonderful sensation of coolness and ticklishness) "That's great"  I may have purred.  The glidescope felt like a feather after the rough plumbing appliance of a moment earlier.

FV: "Looks fine enough, but yes, you'll have to twist to the outside."
MV: "His left?"
FV/Me: (in unison) "Yes."

MV: "OK, here we go....is that the spot?"
FV: "Not far enough for me to see yet"
Me: "Yes, now twist a bit to the left and push......unnnghh" As the painful pressure returned.
Me again: "Yes, OK, hurts, yes, left, push, hurts still, ow, no back right a bit, push, unghh....aaaaahhhh."

And the pain and pressure which had been like trying to pass a Rubik's Cube suddenly flooded away leaving in its wake a blissful cool slipperiness, sweet air and solace.  It was really almost sexual.

Time seemed to pass.

MV: "OK, head back a bit, quickly now!" A bit agitated and urgent, with noises from the female voice too, and all of a sudden I realise there's this detached feeling of distress and utter panic within me, yet I'm not bothered by that at all.  My airway is being blocked - some huge thing is being forced into it with only partial success, so the person on the end of it is sort of repeatedly working it in and out a bit.  This time it is decidedly unsexual.
Me: "Unggh!  Hnng un, trr nww....nu,  unggh, nu....." Still doing my very best to be helpful.
FV: "Nearly there, have to breathe now, breathe IT in..."
Me: "Oh...."

Time definitely passed.

Funny how clearly I remembered having an anaesthetic intubation through my nose and into my lungs whilst mildly sedated.  The very nice anaesthetist had reminded me they were doing it 'sort of awake' so I could help as he gave me a slightly worried, sorry look.  surgeons never seem to show compassion IMO, but anaesthetists to date have been the very epitome of caring.  Maybe it's the drugs, I don't know.  The female voice (I never did see her) was an assistant with the fibre-optic scope going in through the other nostril.  What  really struck me in remembrance were two things - the clarity with which I could visualise the tube getting stuck in the couple of places it did (the reason I was 'there') and help with guidance, but even moreso the split in my personal experience.  I was aware of things like pain, or that special airway-blocked drowning panic we're hardwired with, but also entirely detached from that, able to assist dispassionately.  Given what I've heard from other patients under sedation, I must be fairly pleasant and helpful to work with, which is a nice feeling.  Or maybe they're the only bits you remember.

Still, I'm fairly happy to have been fully under for the main show though.  Somehow I feel that memories of each of ten teeth coming out would probably be a lot like World War One.  A grinding sort of attrition.  Kudos to the crew though, when I saw myself in the mirror 24 hours later I was shocked at the swelling (hey, look, it's Bert Newton with hair!) but also knew I'd gotten off very lightly.  I've seen worse results just from the two wisdom teeth.  Thanks guys.

Just thought you'd like to know what it's like being intubated - since you're not usually there :-).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Welcome To Country*

A few days ago an announcement was made for which I had been waiting some months, ever since I realised that from a political and 'practical' perspective, it made so much sense as to be a virtual dead cert.  My home town (the one I live in now, that is) of Northam will shortly become also home to Australia's largest mainland Immigration Detention Centre.  It will be designed to accommodate 1500 single men at the old Northam Army Barracks, about 4 or so kilometres from where I sit right now.

Assuming just for the moment that placing asylum seekers in detention is a given, then why does this facility make sense?

1)  The overwhelming majority of boat-propelled asylum seekers (which comprises a tiny minority of 'illegal' entrants, btw) are detected and apprehended in waters off Western Australia.
2)  Northam is near enough to Western Australia's capital (and only large) city, Perth, so is close to transport hubs like the airport and also services like large hospitals etc.
3)  Northam is not in Perth, with the commensurately large NIMBY pressures that would engender.
4)  The State and Federal Electorates here have essentially been safe Liberal/National seats ever since mankind stood upright ('Liberal' is synonymous with 'conservative' in Australia, for anyone confused) so voter backlash to the Labor Federal government from this electorate or the Liberal State government is not really going to cause them any harm.  Plus there'll be the sop to the electorate/state of tasty Federal funding for stuff.  And perhaps local employment.  Perhaps.
5)  It was actually the Liberal State Premier's suggestion.  Now he says he's worried.  Tool.
6)  We have this great big unused Army barracks with maybe half of the infrastructure needs for this new political prison - let's not call a spade an earth inverting horticultural implement - already in place.
7)  There is just nowhere else on the planet that makes as much sense today politically or logistically as this.

"You're a spade."  I always call it that.

And yet as late as last week, assurances that nothing would be decided or announced without a full and exhaustive community consultation were still being bandied about.  Pfft.  Along with the local council saying they could not get any more current information, that was the clincher.

As I tweeted or FBd or something the other night, the evening of the announcement you could feel the conversation in homes around town:  The apprehension, and the seethe of hurt and anger, and the weary sigh of resignation.  But there were other things you could feel too underneath all that, like simple fear of the unknown, and a strange kind of hopefulness that there might be some good come of all this.  Who knows?

Then there's the compassion.  Much as those who would control the public agenda - politicians and media sellers in the main - have done a wonderful job of taking the long-held Australian fear of our relative smallness and strategic defenselessness and perverting it into a seeming hysteria of angst about terrorist invasion, population pressure on infrastructure (ironic), cultural erosion and the ghettoisation of Australian cities, there is a deep and abiding sense of compassion and I believe it's there in the majority of us.  Much effort has been put in to turn our culturally prescribed sense of a 'fair go' into a rant against these 'illegal queue jumpers' and away from the simple application of human decency towards someone in serious need and hope of a better life.  But when I see the issue boiled down on someone's face when they consider looking into the eyes of a fearful new arrival....that's when I feel good to know I live in a fundamentally decent society.  The compassion is there when the bullshit is stripped away.  And I do count racism and bigotry as bullshit.

The figures differ depending on their source, but I think the lowest figure I've seen shows that 95% of these boat arrivals end up being assessed as genuine refugees.  Most of those who don't are those who are classed as the 'people smugglers' who piloted the boats.  Just sayin'.

Meet your first Australian.

A humourist recently posted the observation that : "(WA Premier) Colin is worried about all those Muslim men near Northam.  Me too.  Northam would have to be one of the most parochial redneck shitholes in the history of shitholes.  Let us pray for those men."

He has a point, albeit comically exaggerated, but for sure there is no shortage of ugly rural bogan redneck types with their Bundy Fuelled, RM Williams emblazoned utes carrying "Fuck Off We're Full" stickers ready to mouth off ignorantly about queue jumpers and terrorists and fraudsters and "looking after Aussies first" and if pushed hard enough will even get all straightforwardly anti-Islam.  These would all be white people, here.  The 6 o'clock news services love 'em.  And in truth they are everywhere in this country, only the uniforms change from place to place.  Then there are the quieter closet racists; quieter because unlike our neighbouring more tourist-oriented towns where the unspoken apartheid has worked its magic seamlessly, Northam's population is maybe 20% Aboriginal.  Moreso in my part of town.  York and Toodyay would have, I'm guessing, closer to zero.  But this and Northam's status as a regional hub for outlying districts is what gives us the saving grace of a genuine diversity and larger spread of demographics than many regional centres.  And I think we'll thrive with this new challenge, much as Australia has the chance to if it chooses to more fully embrace, celebrate and share its good fortune with the wider region we inhabit - the world.

Our little valley.

Our prosperity is nothing for us to fear.  And the slavish adherence to protection of perceived or actual competitive advantage as the driver of all forms of commerce between the people and the peoples of the world not only has as a natural consequence the limiting of our compassion for our fellow man (and thus our own true happiness and fulfillment, I'd posit) but is in itself self-limiting and ultimately doomed to fail as a system to sustain us.  This population and poverty crisis really is a greater moral and survival challenge than the climate change issue - linked though these two things are.

I lived in Fremantle when we had the influx of Kosovar refugees during the Kosovo War and subsequent NATO incursion.  These folks did not arrive on boats but instead were seen to be temporary refugees taken from UNHCR processing camps in Europe and shared out amongst wealthier nations - for the duration.  The local community almost as one embraced them and rallied about to help and support them in all sorts of meaningful as well as practical ways.  But then again they weren't a real threat to us, being 'visitors', and of course, it was in liberal (note small 'l') Fremantle.  And they were sort of white; let's not pretend that's a non-issue for plenty of Australians whether they'll admit to it or not.  Of course, many were Muslim too, but that was before the whole 9/11 debacle, with its subsequent wars and irreligious animosity that continue unabated to this day.  I think it's time we're getting over all that now.

Northam could actually go a similar way - look at Christmas Island.  It's an even smaller community than Northam, and in a funny way less ethnically diverse, being 70% Hokkien Chinese, and another 10% or so Malay - this is not counting their asylum seekers in detention and elsewhere.  They appreciate the economic benefits the processing and detention centres have brought them, but there's also an undeniable compassion.  The arrivals are greeted by locals bearing gifts, alongside the Immigration officials, and some asylum seekers are eventually able to live within the community rather than behind the razor wire in the camps.

The Christmas Island detention centre.

We just may find that this massive change - an extra 25% population increase in the area, all single males in detention - brings us together in more and more lasting ways than the simple negative NIMBY response.  The local resignation has well and truly kicked in already anyway, a probable side-effect of having a relatively 'battling' and disenfranchised-feeling socioeconomic profile (on average) in town.  I can quite easily see a creeping spread of involvement in groups dedicated to supporting the detainees, to this sort of thing becoming fairly quickly something of which the town rightly becomes proud.  This is the sort of thing that genuinely changes how people think of themselves, when they see surprising changes in their neighbours, and find the courage to examine and change their own convictions also.

We could do it as a country, and I'm really glad that we're bringing the processing onshore.  I'm not glad we're still locking up people and segregating the men, women and children (how come single men have a lesser human right than women or children, who are now largely going to be able to live within the community?) but it's a step forward.

Note Base Safety Level today is 'bravo'.   ???

I don't have the answers to the complex questions around all of this; short of a Utopian dream whereby no-one wants to be a refugee anymore because everywhere's safe to live or - almost as good - a situation where all refugees can quickly find themselves safe and decent haven, supported by a community who truly cares.  We do not live in a planet of scarce resources per se, even at this late stage, but we do enshrine a system of economics, governance and polity that ensures scarcity for many.  This makes wars and famines and pushes people to do all sorts of environmentally and socially destructive things.  We are as a global people both increasingly world citizens and increasingly aware of the preciousness of our unique cultural differences and diversity.  We wish to harmonise but we want to sing our own notes.  But we can overcome these things.

It's only fear of having your stuff taken away; just like these asylum seekers have experienced.  As could any of us, at any time.  So let's not judge any longer, eh?  That'll make our search for the answers so much easier.

* "Welcome To Country" is a relatively modern institution based on extremely ancient Indigenous Australian practices of welcoming a person into "country", which in this sense means homeland, and in a deeper sense, as the homeland is spiritually inextricable from the people, a welcome into the people's sacred place.  A Welcome To Country is performed in a variety of ways (depending a lot on local culture) from a simple speech to a long presentation of dance and music and 'smoking' ceremonies to open major events and now almost all events in Australia feature an opening acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nothing. Good will come of it.

There's been a lot of nothing about lately.

I alluded to it in my last post, as it's been, well, something I've been doing more and more of recently.   It came more fully to my attention that I need more of it too, when my regular respite stay was cancelled (no room at the inn, as it were) because I sort of save up a lot of my required nothingness time unconsciously for these respite weeks.  I felt really deflated and frustrated when I got the call the morning I was due to go in.  All the same, I do a fair bit of nothing anyway.  Proper nothing, I mean.

Then fellow blogger (and noteworthy wordSmith) edwarddebozo says lobbed in a timely and well-wrought post on his increased taste for nothing, and just yesterday I was moved to reply to a 'question of the week' about "what you wish to do before you die" on a geeky in-crowdy web-memey site I lurk about from time to time with a post about how I want nothing.  And crikey, it seemed to strike a bit of a chord over there in b3tavia.  Indeed, a moment of nothing meaning something.  Seinfeld, anyone?

The term they use in contemporary Ho'oponopono circles (as set forth by Ihaleakala Hew Len building on the work of his teacher Morrnah Simeona) is "setting the mind back to Zero", and that's a pretty good description of this nothing of which I speak, I reckon.  With this comes a sort of freedom from rampaging emotions - the sort driven by our habitual self-talk and fearful memories - but it would be wrong to think of this state as emotionless.  This is because the emotions that I do experience in the increasingly frequent but still relatively rare Zero moments I can sustain longer than a few tens of seconds are able to course through me untrammelled and untrammelling, regardless of their flavour, simply because I have no thought to attach to them.  I can't even really name them now for you.

I suspect it's the sort of pre-nirvana state Gautama Buddha was on about with the freedom from desire stuff.  Thinking about it, this is even more key a concept than freedom from suffering, because in my experience at least to date the biggest component of my suffering is the desire to be free from it.  When I'm Zero'ed out there can still be pain or discomfort, but it's just there, it's no problem at all.  It's very cool.

"But what's the point of life without the highs and lows of emotion - power and passion - isn't this just another egotistical way of trying to control life?" I hear someone ask.
My answer is simply "No."
I can see how this would work, faking it as it were, and I was sceptical of the concepts when I found them formalised in modern ho'oponopono too, yet they just sat so naturally and well with me.  It's where all this 'cleaning' talk comes from.  I'm not proselytizing, and I'm not proactively seeking to do healing work either these days - such work as I need to do seems to have a way of finding me anyway, which is lovely.  But I'm wondering if you see what I mean, if you know what a Zero moment is like?  Sure you do, you remember.

Recently I've discovered sort of a new level of awareness with this stuff, and I have more than anything else my illness to thank for it.  You might have read some of the ongoing Things I Want Right Now series here, about my food cravings.  These are waning somewhat btw, but have not fully abated.  Other losses though, are mounting.  Actually mounting is entirely the wrong word; losses can't mount, there is nothing to pile up after all.  Let's imagine an anti-pile of losses.  A complete opposite of mounting up.  Which is not digging a hole, wiseacre.  Lose that thought right now :-)  The loss of abilities is slightly different from the loss of desires, in that the former tends to lead (via grief, usually) to the latter. For example the loss of my ability to physically ride a motorbike brought me back to my long-held dreams of long-distance riding, eventual reconciliation with the near certitude of it's future impossibility, and subsequent release of that desire, with all the 'memories' and habitual thought patterns around it.  And when I have such a moment of realising that I have just 'let go' (for want of a less New Age term) of such a desire, in floods a wonderful moment of.....nothing.  Zero.  It gives me this awareness of myself as a being existing throughout time - connected to past and future as well as now, like standing in a room where now is here, past is over there, future there, and paradoxically the room is also me.  Oneness with all.  That stuff.  And it infects (well, cleanses) all sorts of other memories and thought patterns which I never would have thought had anything to do with long-distance motorcycling for me.

Did that make any sense to anyone else?  Best I can do right now.

I suppose to follow the analogy of we people being only separated from Oneness with the Divine (I'm not bothering with disclaimers for language now, just insert your favourite signifiers OK?) by the baggage of egotistical desires, fears and layers of behavioural and thought patterns accreted over time, then the more of it we clean away, the closer we may feel to this Oneness.

I used to worry that there was Nothing.  Zero.  Turns out I was right, but Nothing is nothing to worry about.  Zero is awesome.  It's just exactly like here, but better.  And weirdly, you seem to get more done.  Go figure!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The 7 Top Reasons This Blog Is.........what?

It's a well-known phenomenon now, the one where people start blogs and it's all "ZOMG posting every day rocks!" and then it dwindles downwards to a couple of posts a week, then maybe one....then.......

And this blog looks lately to have suffered a dose of stereotype in this regard.

So what's really happened, what have I learned from it and importantly what does the future most likely hold?  Let's take a leaf from the "Top 10 Ways to Write a Blog Headline That Drives Traffic!" (gag, retch) meme and number it up:

1)  Champagne Cork Syndrome; not to be confused with First Album/Novel/Film etc syndrome.
In essence, I had a backlog of stories and things to say that I felt needed an outing, and once I opened the floodgates, a whole bunch of bottled-up verbiage spewed forth with little or no conscious direction from me.  Some glorious catharsis and indulgence in the oft-touted Opinion Tantra (see #3, below) ensued, and although there's still plenty of historical anecdote and current opinion there to be aired - with more forming all the time - the pressure's gone.  I no longer have thoughts like "gee, I really want to say X, and also Y, and a whole bunch of other capital letters, so which is closest to hatching today?  Let's go!"  Nope, don't have that any more.  Which is nice in a way, frankly.

2)  Hands.  Dodgy.
A little pout of resentiness for a bit there, sure, but mainly just bother and inconvenience.  My once good typing ability - not a touch-typist, but pretty handy and very accurate using most fingers - is no more.  As my fingers continue their inwards bend and lose reach and dexterity I am now down to index fingers only.  this means you basically have to move your whole arm for each keystroke and watch the keyboard carefully because you're shooting each stroke further than when you can spread a hand of working digits about.  This is a disincentive in itself, as it's tiring and makes for bodily soreness much faster, but it's a deeper thing than that. It's that I'd already had to slow down my thinking/word generating off-the-top-of-my-head speed to 'keep down' (as opposed to 'keep up') with my diminished pace, but now it's gotten so laborious at times that entire thoughts rush by and are forgotten while I'm still trying to remember what it was I was thinking/saying from before.
Awesome for hunting.  Not so much for typing.

This is a blessing though, I've decided.  A whole new way of thinking in words has been called for and I suppose you could say I've been having a little time off whilst developing this new way, making a cleaner break with the older more quick-fire stream-of-consciousness stuff, but a way that does not unduly censor myself.  There's the rub.  Still chafes a bit too.

3)  Opinion Tantra.
Maybe they'll invent a drug like Verbagra for when you can't get up the verbiage to proselytize or pontificate on your point of view.  But again, it's deeper.  But I would say that.

The at times very public journey of Opinion Tantra - in a nutshell 'doing' opinion as much or as fully as the whim takes me, indulging it wholly without censoriousness or any limiting set of 'shoulds' - seems to be doing its trick.  Helping me outgrow caring so much about things that will sort themselves out without me banging on about them anyway.  But then what's followed on from that, logically in a Newtonian sort of way I guess, is that I eventually came to realise that opinionating was a starting point for me to develop my themes of caring and compassion, and I very literally woke up one day with a feeling that I'd not been caring enough of the world, of strangers, of the unseen.  Because I'd not replaced the fulfilment I received and reciprocated in allowing the opinions to go to their 'right' place within me and end up more often than not as something good and kind and caring at its core - regardless of what others may at times have thought, because of course I am as imperfect a communicator as the next opinionator.

This is one of the foundation reasons I think this blog may become reborn.

4)  Eyes.  See #2, (Hands. Dodgy.) above.
Luckily my eyes are not curling inwards and becoming clawlike.  Ooh, imagine that.  But they are becoming more troublesome and for a spell there I just couldn't do the computer thing sufficiently well or without pain to write.  Because suffering is, contrary to much bullshit opinion, not greatly conducive to positivist creativity.

This too is retrospectively accepted by me as a blessing.  It made sure I didn't struggle through with writing when I was best not to.  Perhaps if I was less conflicted by all this stuff and acting it out internally so often with the act of writing in mind then my eyes wouldn't have gotten so bad.  Or maybe not, just a thought.

In any case, I seem to have effected a workaround for now and the visible world brings me not pain again, unless the light's too bright.  Result!

5)  Spring.
'Tis spring, and a young man's fancy lightly turns to.......well, gardening and home improvement mainly.  Despite all the trials and tribulations of the last few months I've been spending quite a bit of my available time and effort on things homeish.  Pictures of strawberries and artichokes will follow in due course.  Especially if I can get a faster broadband speed out here - uploads go at the speed of a recalcitrant donkey, I tells ya.

6) The Social Network
I beTwittened myself, which was interesting for a bit, but then not really.  Handy wide-ranging news aggregation network with added random funnies and wit, but now only worth five or ten minutes in my day.

What really changed was my engagement with Facebook.  I do strongly recall saying (here, as it happened) that I would not 'become one of them' and this is true enough, I haven't really.  You know 'them', the cliche of the person who would suffer contact deprivation disorder if deprived of their FB connection for more than a few hours and would possibly die from a sense of lack of relevance if it lasted a couple of days.  But my interest has grown, and I am comfortable enough there now.  So what once may have been simmered more slowly for a blog post now gets kernelled down to less than 420 characters and posted.  Or what may have been the start of a larger inspiration then sort of loses its mojo once spoken of elsewhere perhaps.

There's another little symptom that Facebook, Twitter and their ilk can throw up too, it's what I now like to refer to as the Helen Razer Effect.  She is an Australian pundit of sorts in various media, and semi-famously deleted her Twitter account not long after one of her mates, Catherine Deveny, lost her job in journalistic humorous punditry through fallout from Tweets deemed injudicious by her employer - but not for fear of that sort of reason.  Ms Razer (I refer to her as 'Ms' in deference to her notorious feminismism) explained that she felt Twitter and the short-form, always-on, hyper-connectedness of Twitter she was "becoming more of a two-dimensional person".  I can see what she means now from a personal, as opposed to a theoretical perspective.  The flattening effect one gets from too much multitasking, too many inputs in too short (or simultaneous) succession, that can so easily prevent you from doing any one thing in depth; or being in a single flow as deeply as you might like.

It's not a bad thing at all, necessarily, just a thing that requires learning a new way of self-management so I can have the best of ways without the worst of ways.  Learning it though, took me a bit further than I'd like to regularly go down that path.  I'm back in the middle now, I feel.

7)  Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
And I've had quite a few of those in my life just lately.  You know about my honesty policy for myself here, that's not compromised by me going a bit quiet.  For in what there is that I do say, there is the whole truth - of me, that is - because it invariably leaks out and spills around the edges of my inability to shape myself in words anyway.  One does not necessarily need to hear the details of the regrinding of the valves and the porting of the head to hear just by note that an engine has been undergoing an overhaul.

Sleeping dogs.  Let 'em lie?

Seven's a good number.  So what of the next bit?  Of course, I can't say with any certainty, but on a few things I am clearer.  The inhibiting factors I've been experiencing look now to me as a sort of set; all of a oneness, and I feel like I just passed a tipping point a little way back that's sliding these ills (/blessings) down the lever into the past now.  So if there is no real change in the frequency here it won't be due to 1 through 7 above.  My guess is no good for this.  I can see a new rawness, right alongside a new gentleness.  More inspiration to write with less care about whether I do or not.

Ah yes, freedom - just a little bit more.  That's nice.  Time's too short to give a shit about such frippery, yes?

So, just sayin', is all.