Living in Society Social Commentary Writing

Waking and the Imagination

Curing Squash

I’m not a fan of human physiology. Given a Cartesian outlook toward life, I’d rather not think about or acknowledge my physicality even exists.

Yet there it is, influencing my daily affairs in ways I don’t comprehend. The physicality of others impacts everything I do in public and in private. My physicality — driving a lift truck, operating a bar code scanner, lifting bags of feed, sitting in meetings with other humans — impacts others as well as myself. For at least a moment, I should consider and endeavor to understand physiology.

Maybe in another life.

“I think, therefore I am” has been my beacon since I was a grader. I call it Cartesian now but its roots are in serving as an altar boy a few blocks from home in the Catholic Church and in the convent located on the upper floor of our elementary school. I’d come home from daily Mass and read what today is called juvenile literature printed on cheap paper and mailed from places of which I’d never heard. I became fixated on my own awareness and with the fact that other people, places and things existed and had impact on me. I felt separate from their reality, connected only by ink on paper, conversation, and radio and television. I became aware that in fact it was a reality.

The origins of a Cartesian outlook have roots further back in my hospitalization for a head injury at age three.

“What I learned through the injury and recovery in the hospital was that there is an infrastructure of knowledge and caring to support us when things happen,” I wrote in 2009. “This experience assured me that although we are vulnerable, we are not alone.”

Four physicians ago, when we first moved to Big Grove, my doctor laid me back on the examination table and rested his left hand on my naked belly and held it for a moment.

“This is not normal,” he said, referring to excess weight layered between my guts and skin. I agreed, respecting his training and experience in physiology, something about which I cared little. One would have thought it easy to improve my Body Mass Index given the intellectual provenance awareness can bring.

But no.

It has been especially hard to exercise since developing plantar fasciitis. Given my love of jogging, I tend to avoid thinking about exercise now, hoping gardening and the physicality of work at the home, farm and auto supply store compensates. I don’t know if it does and am reluctant to do the type of analysis I did with other life schemes.

If mine is a life of the imagination, that’s where I’d prefer to live. Yet reality beckons: in the form of news stories of horrible things happening to people the world over; in the work required to put a balanced meal on the table; or in staying awake during the 25 minute commute to the home, farm and auto supply store. Who wouldn’t want to live in the imagination? There is an unparalleled comfort there.

Whatever I am, physically or intellectually, I go on looking.

I look through a window where spiders persistently weave and reweave a web to catch insects drawn to the warmth and light of our home;
I look through eyeglasses the prescription of which needs an upgrade;
I look through the car windshield alert for the sudden appearance of deer during the rut;
I look through the fog of morning to see what each day brings;
I look for things I recognize more than for discovery and that’s regrettable.

After college I vowed to read every book in our Carnegie library. At the time that may have been possible. I didn’t get past the religion section of the Dewey Decimal System-organized stacks. I don’t read as much today as I did then.

Now the veil of Maya wears thin.

Everything I believed upon retirement from my transportation career has been called into question. I was hopeful the long, difficult work of electing a Democratic president was finished and that common sense would dominate public discourse. It turned out to be too much imagining as we were struck in the tuchus by the physicality of modern politics.

As if awakening from a dream, it will soon be time again to get dressed and find my running shoes. Not because my plantar fasciitis is in abeyance, but because the built in arch support will comfort my aging feet as I re-engage in society. I didn’t imagine I’d have to do that again in this life. It turns out I was wrong and Frederick Douglass was right:

It is in strict accordance with all philosophical, as well as experimental knowledge, that those who unite with tyrants to oppress the weak and helpless, will sooner or later find the groundwork of their own liberties giving way. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.It can only be maintained by a sacred regard for the rights of all men.

I imagine it’s time to get back to work in the physical world.