by Liam Scheff
Some, perhaps many of you know that I’m very ill. I had a series of disasters occur during dentistry about six months ago resulting in a number of lasting, invasive brain-related symptoms that are rendering life as I knew it to be presently impossible. Lawsuits are not out of the question, but health has to be bearable for a lawsuit to be worthwhile.
I consider it quite probable that my lifespan has been severely reduced, and quite possible that I may not be able to hang around for as long as even I might have wished.
I have decided (I think) to try to write during this process, even if the process is that of leaving this world. I give this to myself as a kind of task for my very purpose-driven soul, which has had most of its pleasures taken away very suddenly, and is reeling and writhing and shriveling in the pain of acute loss and invasive pain.
Those chief pleasures that are now removed include listening to long audio books and lectures, mostly on history, for days, weeks, months, years and decades (it has always been my favorite way to learn – to listen); of having the ability to read 30 to 50 (and sometimes more) articles per day and collate and condense the information in my once-powerful and impressive mind, and spit out some pithy summary for friends, in an article or a cartoon graphic; and the ability to write for many hours, and to do so in good health, without invasive neurological issues or pharma side-effects….
So, writing, sitting and simply being… aren’t… what they used to be.
White Light, White Heat, White Noise
The symptom that is the chief problem is not the stroke-related physical damage: the left-side weakness, the walking and gait issues that I was bravely and willfully – and somewhat successfully working through.
The chief problem showed up about 6 weeks ago. It’s called tinnitus, though should be called “14,000 hertz of living hell,” or “fuck-you-suicide-power-drill-in-skull” that obeys no master, heeds no prayer, and succumbs to no medication, natural or pharmaceutical (though it does seem to like some things better than others, and by “like,” I mean that it takes to them like a match to gasoline.)
Some things are known to inflame it radically – for example, pain killers, which I do not take (and now cannot take, even if I needed them desperately) and sugar (ditto). And then there may be some things that might get it to be less invasive – but never apparently absent.
As a result, it is now necessary for me to be surrounded my noise – fans, ‘white noise,’ television, etc. Just.. noise. Anyone who knows me knows I love quiet contemplation, so this is an intrusion on my soul’s living space. If not for the external noise, the drill (or, at its worst, the screeching siren) becomes all I hear; the mind focuses on them, and I’m ruined and curl up, disappearing into thoughts of death and release.
“Better to surround myself with noise,” is the unavoidable answer (so I’m doing my best).
As it goes, daily and through the long evening, the high screech rattles me at various intervals, sometimes screaming, sometimes hissing, sometimes popping and exploding like an overloaded electrical circuit… then again, sometimes giving me a break by disappearing into the noise of the day, the cars, the television, the conversations…
Then night comes…and it howls all night long no matter what I do or think or say or pray or wish or hope or promise or recant or repent or curse or cry. My head resting against any object pushes the sound into bone-transmitted buzz-humming rattling super-stereo. The only option is to sleep with Walkman that plays a generally distracting (if annoying) series of bleeps and blips that draw my inner ear away from the screech.
No more music, no more lectures in the earphones; they’re just overwhelmed by the sound.
Sleep is impossible in this state. You can’t sleep through a siren. That’s what sirens are for. To wake you up. Hence, sleep has been replaced by a kind of pale imitator, a doppelgänger of the deep blue and black Morpheus I used to drift to without trouble or pain.
Getting to be unconscious then, requires the need to treat myself like a veterinary experiment and put myself down with hard, strong pharma pills to black out for 6 or 7 hours at night, whose side effects require another six or seven hours to recover from….And I’m talking as someone who is trained in natural health and recovery from illness.
Drinking gallons of vitamin C and turmeric tea, eating bags of raw greens, avoiding anything remotely inflammatory and doing appropriate enemas to get the liver to puke so I don’t. (If I weren’t so good at detoxifying, I’d be in the I.C.U. presently, I promise you.)
It’s a game of baling one bucket of water for every two or three that come over the side in the storm, or through the hole in the hull of boat.
Nevertheless, the eyes are turning into black and red bruises, I pull muscles in my “sleep” for not being able to adjust to normal pressures on my body, and the whole thing gives the impression of a downward spiral.
It is recognized by the doctors I’ve seen that what we in the West mistakenly call “suicide” is sometimes the outcome of such a condition. (I don’t call it “suicide,” I call it “releasing the spirit to be whole again.”) But that’s another story for another time. So hold that thought. That is not the purpose of this note, or what I’m offering as my present solution.
The First Eternal Law Of The Finite World
I recognize that this isn’t fun to read. It might be compelling – as horror movies are compelling – but it’s not a dear delight such as are the gentle moments of life, of which I’ve had many (and many hard ones too).
And so, it’s become clear to me that I may very well not survive this; and clinging to wane hope has never been my code of conduct. I like to face reality, look into its eyes, and ask the gods and spirits for the strength to contend with what comes next.
I accept that I may have a shortened – perhaps a very shortened lifespan. I accept that this too may pass and leave me a more deeply compassionate and forgiving person – for life is brutally hard – and no fight we ever fight will ever change the nature of life on this planet, in this existence.
Life is hard. Life is suffering. Life is for the living. Life is love. The spiritual essence of us clings to the loving soul that is in us all. But the mammal in us, the human monkey animal creature that we are – is going to suffer, and is going to cause suffering all around it – even through the simple act of eating. Or of being in a bad mood and yelling at someone.
Or of being an uncompassionate psychopath who murders in body or soul all he or she encounters. We’ve met those people. History names a few of them. But they’re in every institution, hiding behind the better people who defend the institution against critics…such is the irony of institutions.
We’ve got a world full of every kind of human, but maybe, in reality, there are only three kinds of people.
I’d venture to bet that about 90% of human beings are about as devotedly “good” as a shoulder shrug; mezzo-mezzo, “meh.” 50/50. Nothing special. Getting by. Muddling through.
That’s the majority of people. Average. In every way. A few good qualities, more than a few deficits – and no real driving desire to improve that score.
I’d bet that about 5% of human beings are true and unalterable psychopaths; narcissistic monsters who rise to the top or feed at the bottom of institutions, and make other, less hardened, more generous, more trusting, less critically-awake humans into emotional, psychological and physical slaves.
I’d put the remaining 5% in the class of those who, with every moment of their life, seek to self-examine, to improve, to grow, to learn, to get beyond the conventional brainwashing of institutions, and to understand the world.
These groups have some flow in between them, of course… and some people living very hum-drum existences are sometimes shocked into greater awareness of both the mystery of the universe, inexplicable and all-pervasive; and the need for compassion. It is always possible to rise, or to fall. Once you recognize compassion in yourself for the suffering of others, though, the superficial edifices and promises of this world begins to fall away, piece by piece. Because behind everything we do as a culture – and here I mean the Western, commercial, capital-driven culture (but it is probably a universal human reality), there is some volume of suffering, and often cruelty.
I’ve been shocked and awakened into my own need for greater and greater compassion as the years have gone on and my experience has grown. I’ve always had a rare and exceptional set of intellectual gifts; a mind that never stopped wanting to learn; a tremendous gift for language (various) and words; and a set of keen emotional and psychological insights (that nevertheless didn’t save me from the few psychopaths I met along the way who managed to pull me in).
My gifts didn’t stop me from being or appearing abrasive (and feeling misunderstood) many, many times; in fact, they probably added to the disbelief I’ve felt (hence the biting, mordant, dripping irony I expressed) when looking at the transparently dishonest institutions that human beings can’t help but to create, again and again…
(Institutions – that’s a story for a longer discussion.)
Thoughts While Suffering, Or Dying
All of this said…
Life goes on, and then it doesn’t. I’ve come to recognize a belief in myself – which you are free to counter or argue against – that the soul – the Atman (in Hindu parlance) is eternal; that our soul’s journey continues far beyond this ridiculously imbalanced and brutal world, just as it came from a place whose memory is erased the moment of our first breath…
So, I am ill, and may not recover, and I may die, as everything born does.
In the meantime, in my manageable hours per day, I will try to write the thoughts that I’ve been having while in this slow grinding spiral.
The thoughts are not all about me – about pain or loss or suffering. They tend to be about meaning, experience, purpose, and yes, life and death, and how we perceive them.
I’m putting this up as an announcement to myself as much as to anyone else – that I’ve pledged to shake off the pain of the day and force some of what’s going on the inside to the outside.
Why? Because… I think some of it might be interesting enough, and useful and even valuable enough to others to make it worth the effort.
So, I will force myself out of my haze to write the things I’m thinking as I feel that I might be leaving this world sooner than later.
Much love, blessings all around.
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