Wednesday, May 16, 2012
EVER LESS GEOGRAPHY
What I begin with may seem unconnected to geography, in the broader sense of places on the earth, but actually is connected for I speak of the geography of the mind or the soul. Geography is, among other things, a descriptive examination of the topographical features of, for example, some region of the earth or a planet – well I suggest there is a type of topography of the mind and the soul! We know various regions of the brain contain what is necessary for thought, emotions, mobility, speech, etc. and that certain traumas can impact how well things function, so in a way post a stroke you might say that the geography of the brain is less. PTSD and other traumas impact the emotional regions, the topography – one impact of those, along with other factors, can reduce the creative geographical regions dramatically to the point of experiencing what is known commonly as writer’s block. It has been out of a prolonged period of the latter that I have been reflecting a lot on the human experience of geography as in distances travelled, that is the ever widening outreach of human mobility in general to the various ways in which, as we age or our economic circumstances change, our mobility is restricted to the point where we experience ever less geography. I first began reflecting on ever less geography many years ago when I was chaplain in a nursing home and observed one of the elderly women, who lived in a sort of dorm room with three other women, pushing her wheeled walker down the hall. I was struck by how she kept everything precious to her in a large purse strapped to the walker. She had been a teacher, wife, mother, in a word someone whose area of life and mobility was extensive and for whom old age had reduced everything! As a human family we first began to expand our experience and use of geography by simply walking and it took thousands of years before the domestication of horses, elephants, camels, increased the range of travel. Then canoes, boats were developed, enabling travel not only along rivers and across lakes but eventually even across oceans until contact between peoples of all cultures, religions, languages became common place. Yes not all contact was positive as history teaches us, but contact there was, is. Only with advances in steam technology in the mid-19th century, then the development of commercial aviation, along with the combustible engine, did travel over ever vaster distances by ever greater numbers of people become ordinary, while space travel remains as yet mainly reserved to astronauts or the extremely wealthy. Who knows where the definitive edge of space is, or for that matter the edge of the geography of the internet! We can define the external limits of the human brain but not those of thought, emotion, creativity. When it comes to the soul, the heart, the image which most impresses me for their geography is the tardis of Dr. Who: the external dimensions are fixed but interiorly is a place of seeming infinitude. Such is the garden enclosed of the human heart and soul. Writer’s block then is a rather tough, indeed excruciatingly frustrating experience of less geography on a par with the pain that elderly woman experienced with her world reduced to a small crowded room and a few hallways. Age impacts physical, mental agility and stress impacts creativity agility. For wee the baptized in particular, the reduction of geographical travel, daily life space, even interior suffering such as writers block or other mental, emotional pain, offers us the opportunity to choose what we do with it: agonize with increased frustration or literally offer the pain in intercession for those of our brothers and sisters throughout the world who experience the more nefarious aspects of reduced geography: the homeless who find their world reduced to a few dirty inner city streets and alleys, perhaps on occasion a cot in a shelter; those suffering famine, war, genocide who are pushed off the land where they and their ancestors have lived for millennia; yes for those languishing in nursing homes, those suffering in hospitals, those in labour camps, prisoners in general. When it is the reduced geography of the creative aspects of the intellect needed to write that very painful struggle, experienced as mentioned for many weeks, can be an offering for those suffering depression, ptsd from being on the battlefield, or any form of mental illness or anguish. The Saints learned and have passed onto us, rooted in Romans 8:27 where the Apostle reminds us that by the power of the Holy Spirit all things can work for our good, hence in all suffering by the grace of God through the merits of Jesus’ own suffering, good can be found, purification embraced, life enhanced, for ourselves yes, but by offering what we suffer, grace for others. When the choice is made to offer up whatever we suffer, for the good of others in union with Jesus is made, the geography of gift, of communion of love, is limitless!