The Inner World, Ways of Being

Not waving?

aqua_vale_pool

 

I’ve been having a lot of problems with my knees at the moment. Walking is painful and cycling is not much better. So I thought I’d go swimming. It’s not something I usually do. It was an interesting experience. Firstly Io caught sight of myself in a mirror and thought “That’s not how I look. Please that’s not how I look!” In my head my body is still in the shape I had in my 20’s and 30s. (I’m not sure when the gap between my mind’s view of me and my body’s view of itself grew so wide.) Then there was the fun of trying to squeeze my clothes etc into a space that a family of mice would find cramped. But with determination, I achieved this. Then I had to find a pound coin to close the locker. All this before I hobbled to the pool. I had planned to lower myself in slowly but somebody was waiting to climb out so I dropped in over the side. (I thought a heated pool meant a warm pool. Not only slightly less that the outside air temperature.) Having got in without drowning I began my majestic front crawl up and down the lanes. 10 lengths; 20; 30; 40; 50. There was no stopping me. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Unless you saw me and can testify under oath that I’m lying!)

What I did discover was how long a length is. How long it takes to swim it. And how amazing solid water can be. What I also found was a tendency to panic. I usually swim front crawl alternating it with breast stroke. When crawling my face was looking down at the floor. I had no reference points. One bit of floor is very much like any other bit. It wasn’t that I was scared of drowning. That would make sense. The memory that kept coming back was of crashing on my bike a couple of years ago. I was out with Aylesbury cycling club and was helped out of the road by my friends who called an ambulance for me. My memory of that event was that I had fallen off but managed to crawl to safety. The club tell me that I was sprawled unconscious on the road and they pulled me to safety. I crashed coming into a blind bend .Any car rounding the corner would have run over me as if I was a rabbit. (My other memory is having gas and air in the ambulance and refusing it after about five minutes because it left me feeling too out of control .I found “honest” pain easier to deal with than the floating experience of gas and air.)

I’ve been trying to make sense of this experience. In the pool changing to breast stroke helped because I could locate myself. I could see other swimmers. I could judge where I was in relation to the end of the pool. I felt less helpless and disoriented.(Rather akin to my experience of gas and air in the ambulance.)

There has been a discussion on one of the Linked In groups about suffering. Is there a meaning to suffering? Does it serve any useful purpose? The same question came up in my local Quaker meeting on Sunday. One member stood up and said “I’ve suffered. I didn’t enjoy it. But it changed me. I wish there had been a different way to learn.” As a counsellor and a nurse it is the question that is unavoidable. (Actually as a sentient human being it’s an unavoidable question.)

My “suffering” in the swimming pool was relieved when I could locate myself and orient myself in relation to other people. I could see the end. And knew that I could get to safety.

The link is to a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival. “As long as I can see the Light”

 

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3 thoughts on “Not waving?

  1. I was reminded of the recent tv programme about Holbein’s portrayal of Tudor court life in which the presenter handled a skull for the last part of the programme and talked about the magnificent painting – The Ambassadors – in which there is a skull painted with anamorphic perspective, reminding us that with all our strutting about with bravado and super-confidence, in the end we are all dust – even though that may be stardust!

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  2. Andrew Jones says:

    My grandmother used to say that ‘Suffering was Good for the Soul’ as if those who innately suffer are somehow more righteous and destined for greater glory in heaven. As an atheist I sometimes wonder if mine or my fellow atheist’s suffering is somehow less worthy because we don’t believe or if there is a God, does he still takes note. (Be nice to find out one day.)
    Or prosaically is it just that suffering is a part of the human condition, an essential part of that condition. Maybe it is that part of us that drives us, goads us, demands of us our very best and gives us no quarter until we have succeed. Nitzche said ‘That which does not kill us, makes us strong’ and to a certain extent that is true. It has been well documented that writers, musicians, actors and artists use or channel their suffering into their art; how many songs about lost loves are there in your favorite playlist. Who has not wept for Cleopatra; who has not been captivated by the Mona Lisa. A masterpiece painted in the most turbulent period of Da Vinci’s life. Given the early and almost universally tragic deaths of James Dean, John Belushi, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams the analogy of the ‘suffering artist’ almost becomes stereotypical.
    Suffering as the witness in your meeting said forces change, growth, awareness and self examination all of which can be difficult,unpleasant and oft times painful; but without pain there can be no pleasure; without suffering there can be no joy. I for one would not wish to live in a world devoid of joy. Sometimes a little suffering is good for the soul, it reminds us of what we have and what we could lose.

    kahless

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    • “Suffering as the witness in your meeting said forces change, growth, awareness and self examination all of which can be difficult,unpleasant and oft times painful; but without pain there can be no pleasure; without suffering there can be no joy. I for one would not wish to live in a world devoid of joy. Sometimes a little suffering is good for the soul, it reminds us of what we have and what we could lose.”
      I agree Andrew. Some suffering can be healthy .If only to remind us how enjoyable it is to be in Health- whatever that might be. I worry when suffering becomes too much and one feels only a victim of somebody else’s war etc. I think that’s where God is so useful. It validates our suffering. “God loves me and wants only good things for me. On that basis this suffering must, eventually, be for my good. Therefore I can and will endure it.Thee is one strand of christian thinking that says that when we suffer, God suffers alongside us. He is not separate from his creation. I’ have my reservations about this idea but it’s a step in the right direction.

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