In Griefwalker, Stephen Jenkinson, who headed a palliative team at a major Toronto hospital, says many things, such as:
- making human beings–‘The crucible of making human beings is death. Every culture worth a damn knows that. It’s not success, it’s not growth, it’s not happiness. It’s death. That’s the cradle of your love of life: the fact that it ends.’
- homelessness–‘The challenge that urban people have especially is to be from somewhere…. The identity that all of us [non-Aboriginals] have includes the loss of being at home.’
- death phobia–‘It is not human to fear death, because it is not a universal fact.
- in the loop–‘Suddenly you realize: grief is the awakening, grief is the sign of life stirring towards itself. Your life is in the loop. Your life is the loop. You’re part of the loop. And hopefully that stirs in you this feeling enormously grateful and then enormously indebted, and you don’t know what to do about them. And you think you’re supposed to do something about them but you’re not. You’re supposed to know it, and walk around like it’s true.’
- job description–‘Somebody who’s dying has a job description in front of them. No one asked them to do it. Their job is to die extravagantly, to set the banquet-table. And the story-telling that ensues is the feast.’
- the flower–He says, in the fall as the leaves turn colour, ‘Until your ability to see the flower is rooted in the fact that it won’t always be there, and neither will you, how much of the flower do you see?’
- carry–‘How do you carry what knowing that you will die does to you, all the time? So dying, knowing about, living it, every day, not as a hypothetical, as a given, as a personal thing, as a necessity, as justice, as, um, a sign of mercy, as an indication of the compassion that’s stitched into the fabric of the universe itself, that’s what dying is.’
- the key–‘The key, the real skill to being grateful is not to be grateful for the stuff that benefits you–that’s easy. What about being grateful for the stuff that doesn’t benefit you in the least, but you’re grateful it’s in the world? Now you’re getting somewheres. Now you’re starting to see the big story. Now you’re willing for your life to be bigger than your lifespan. Or your children’s lifespan.’
- grief is a skill–‘Grief’s not how you feel, grief’s what you do. Grief is a skill.’
(Pictured is ‘The Ambiguity’ by Kenny Louie.) What does Jenkinson mean by ‘here and now’? He says in an interview that in our own culture ‘people are left to their own devices’ to figure out what death is. He later says that our culture’s truism that you start dying the moment you’re born, like a watch winding down, is a mechanical one, and that the dead are not with the living–out of sight, out of mind–is not true throughout the world. So, it could be that ‘here’ is ‘everywhere’ and ‘now’ is ‘every moment’. How do you carry that, everywhere every moment? How do you?
Now that Scroogle is gone, I use Duck Duck Go to search for web results and Creative Commons for images and music. Besides, Duck Duck Go is humorous. Google is not. Other criticisms of Google include ‘possible misuse and manipulation of search results, its use of others’ intellectual property, concerns that its compilation of data may violate people’s privacy, censorship of search results and content, and the energy consumption of its servers as well as concerns over traditional business issues such as antitrust, monopoly, and restraint of trade.’
google is reality?
However, in digging deeper I found out that a few years ago ‘a group of Austrian researchers observed a tendency to misuse the Google engine as a “reality interface”. Ordinary users as well as journalists tend to rely on the first pages of Google search, assuming that everything not listed there is either not important or merely does not exist. The researchers say that “Google has become the main interface for our whole reality. To be precise: with the Google interface the user gets the impression that the search results imply a kind of totality. In fact, one only sees a small part of what one could see if one also integrates other research tools”.‘
It started with the title of Atwood‘s new novel, which I heard as Mad Adam. ‘That’s a palindrome!’ I thought right away, thinking of Ruth May Price in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. It’s actually MaddAddam, but it’s still a palindrome. Other palindromes include:
- Able was I ere I saw Elba.
- A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!
- Madam, I’m Adam. –or– Madam in Eden, I’m Adam.
- Hannah, Ada, etc.
- Never odd or even.
- Rise to vote, sir.
From the you-learn-something-new-every-day department: ‘Semordnilap is a name coined for a word or phrase that spells a different word or phrase backward. “semordnilap” is itself “palindromes” spelled backward…. The longest single-word English examples contain eight letters, such as “stressed” (“desserts”) and “dioramas” (“samaroid”, resembling a samara). Other shorter examples include “deliver” (“reviled”) and “swap” (“paws”)’ and my personal favourites, ‘straw’/’warts’.
the new laurel’s kitchen
This week is my PSW’s (Personal Support Worker) last with me. She has been with me for nearly two years. Since I can no longer cook or bake safely and independently, she has done so. I’ve ordered and am giving her The New Laurel’s Kitchen, which was my culinary bible 25 years ago. I’m re-reading the essays that so inspired me. They would seem quaint, but sadly they’re not. They are prophetic, identifying stresses and trends that have worsened during the last three decades. We have less time and little sense of place in this economic-focused culture. The antidote that Flinders, one of the authors, suggests is to make roots, wherever you are, and make time, in the home, in the kitchen. Ruppenthal suggests that we, like the song says, slow down, you move too fast.
(Pictured is ‘Guys’ by Stephen Best.) Am I a Type A? I thought I was a pretty-easygoing guy. You know, I don’t engage in aggressive, competitive sports, I don’t run a business or manage others, I don’t lead a political party, none of that testosterone-fueled stuff. But lately I’ve noticed a trend: I blow my top once in a while, and I’m something of a perfectionist. Oh oh. I hurt others and myself. Can I relax? Can I change?
This got me thinking: ‘After ten years [of a long-term study, Dr Meyer Friedman and Dr Ray Rosenman] were able to conclude that certain personality characteristics are more strongly associated with heart disease than blood cholesterol levels or even smoking. The main elements of the heart disease-prone personality are “hurry sickness”, the impelling need to do everything fast if not faster; a perfectionism [check] and a need to control others [check]…; an inability to admit one’s errors; free-floating anger [for me, not free-floating but still worrisome, so ‘check’] and hostility; competitiveness in every endeavour; and a tendency to “catastrophize” or see even minor events or needs as overwhelmingly urgent [check]…. [They] labeled the syndrome of heart disease-prone behavior the “Type A personality”.’ (The New Laurel’s Kitchen, 350)
a change is gonna come
Am I stuck being intolerant or catastrophic? Evidently not. ‘Once Type A himself, [Friedman] has taught himself through great effort to become an inspiring model of the Type B personality: tolerant, relaxed [pictured], humble, genuinely interested in others [unlike a cat], highly motivated and professionally productive.’ (The New Laurel’s Kitchen, 350-351) In some ways, a cat’s life is looking pretty good. I wonder if I can be just as relaxed and still genuinely interested in others?