Renewal and reflection are welcome friends in life. For me, they bring something extra to numb mundane readings of the obvious. They also treat the states of the self, stir up parts of the sleeping self and quieten parts of the awake self. Like an art gallery, the exhibit comes to be displayed then stored, in order to redisplay at some other point in time for some other poignant purpose.
I remember reading the book “Illness as a metaphor” at the beginning of my thesis term in university. The book was given to me by my supervisor as a pretext to thinking about ideas for my thesis. A short read at 70 odd pages, the author and critic Susan Sontag packs some serious punch into this metaphorical interpretation of reality, and the connection modernisation has with controlling bodies by simple prescription. Sontag highlights her examples in the common uses of language that characterise illness as an idea owned and controlled by structural power. As such, illness is explored by Sontag for its obscured role in power relationships between individuals and structures, and how deviance to the norm is constructed. From it we gain insight into our world and what may be happening to this understanding we thought we had of ourselves. This clever read levels a solid critique of modernism, how it reworks our understandings/meaning appropriated to the ideas surrounding life and death and how they are manipulated by the doctrines and demands of modern neoliberalism. This is referred to in the updated dichotomy, by postulating that illness comes to take the place of death in the life/death dichotomy. Illness becomes a tool to denigrate and judge those who possess an inability to adapt or cope with the demands of homo economicus, that is, the individual’s ability to integrate and participate in the capitalist system.
Books aside and a thesis already now complete, I would wind up in Asia, hitch hiking through China and Thailand and experiencing the magic of each place. Magic suddenly turned to maladie, with heavy sickness and fever taking over the body toward the end of my travels upon landing in Indonesia. The hospital experience in Indonesia was one distanced by a lack of a common language, which led to a worsening condition and ineffective treatment of whatever it was I had. Sick and senseless, I would eventually persuade airport staff to let me on a plane so I could be bought home for more rigorous ICU treatment in Australia. Throughout the experience, I was prompted by the hospital environment how radically different human life can be seen, and how and what it could mean for me personally. As patients we are rats in a laboratory-like environment. Your illness becomes to be the only thing people negotiate you by, and you in turn end up negotiating it. Hallucinations and personal experiences and feelings aside, I believe that my warped feelings through medication and sickness offered me insights into the dichotomy of life and death, the feeling of inner vs outer struggle, the breath of different speeds speaking to the struggle for a natural path of balance. These factors would compound on my broader thinking of life, love and the other possible dimensions I was yet to discover.
Now a meta narrative for this illness began to be forming. For it seems that this past six months can be defined by two speeds of life in two worlds – both equally attended and realised by my own volition. In one the mind is freed up by the restrictions placed on any reality; routine, schedule, along with the same friends, tasks, patterns etc. This is the travel world. The other world exists of structures that more or less remain fixed, demanding little of day to day movement and people, the worries of those days for myself would lie out of the future, that the day to day would be taken pragmatically and the future goals, ambitions and paths fill all mundane thinking space. The possible future would speed my mind up, the spontaneous present would bring back the present. These two head spaces somehow would cancel each other out, bringing me to some quantitative balance.
Yet two states or modes of being must be harmonised, the divided self must feed off each other. This mental delusion had to come to an end it seemed, it was already pronounced and ready to compound. Yet perhaps this became the catalyst for this illness, unknown to all the doctors in the intensive care unit and unknown upon my release. As such I draw my own conclusions and come to think of this illness as a climactic response to a building tension between two modes or poles of feeling and thought, two contradictory actions that sought only to play each other off to find a real winner. lost? Perhaps this is what infinite possibility can do to you, in some ways its good as it opens up the rigidity, whilst on the other hand taken too seriously to the edge, it comes to negate itself and THE self.
I feel more inside now, more freed from living at two ends, or pursuing ideas and things that belong to someone else. It also helped me understand what I must do, that my path is mine, and it brings me comfort at a minimum to know that through these experiences I have come to visualise and comprehend those other paths. Now it’s a matter of getting on with it, accelerating and excelling how I know I will.