Monday, November 10, 2008

On the question of wakefullness

Back from an overnight at the VA hospital in La Jolla where I had my fourth chemo infusion. I found the first few months wrestling with this cancer business new and rather interesting. Saturday night, last night, getting ready to leave the house, with a two to three-hour traffic line waiting for me in the dark at the border, I realized that whatever charm the business had held for me before last night, last night I wanted to be quit of it. I had to go, so I went. It was after 10pm when I arrived. Then a long night in a room with a couple other guys who were already asleep when I got there. I coughed most of the night and couldn’t sleep.

This morning when Dr. Go found me coughing in his office he held up the infusion procedure so that I could get my chest x-rayed. If I had an infection in the lungs he would call off the infusion. I didn’t, so we went ahead with it, five and a half hours, after getting started two hours late. Couldn’t sleep in the chair, though I was stretched out full length. A long night, a long day. Glad to be back at the house. With regard to the cancer-rite-of-passage, the bloom is off the rose for me. Now the adventure is to find a way to be awake, to be conscious, as much as possible. I understand that I have more or less failed the test of wakefulness the last couple weeks. Not entirely, but more or less.

In part, I failed by trying to work when I should have gone to bed. As if memory and desire—the mind--were in a contest with the body. There is no contest so far as the body is concerned. It wants what it wants without reference to anything else that exists. (In this moment, while it is not particularly pertinent, I recall Alan Watts noting, “we do not beat our hearts.”) Mind is another story. Mind betrays wakefulness endlessly with its obsession for remembrance on the one hand, and for the imaginings of desire on the other. I know the story well. The past, the future. It’s what caused me in the moment, again and again these past few weeks, to go against the soundness of the body in its need for rest. There is no desire there on the part of the body. Only perceived need. The body beats its own heart for its own reasons. Mind has nothing to do with it.

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