Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I was going to write about pain. But I also wanted to write about "Tuesdays with Morrie", the book by Mitch Albom. Then I realised that I could do both, at the same time. I've been putting off writing about the book, because it seems my opinion of it doesn't run alongside that of my wife, and other important people. Like the rest of the reading world, apparently.

The pain I was going to write about is of the physical kind. My arthritis has been kicking up a bit of late, and I've gone a few nights without sleep. Lying in bed, vainly trying to get comfortable, and knowing exactly where my hips and shoulders are at all times because of the molten rock that seems to have replaced the bones becomes a time of deep reflection. One reflects on pain, frustration, pain, discomfort, pain, and pain.

And so the mind swings mightily between pain's casual aspects, and pain's deeper and more meaningful sides. We'll start with the insignificant, and move on to the profound. Small, now: the disappointment and emotional ache that strikes you when you open a pack of potato crisps, only to find that they've been reduced to potato crumbs. Insignificant indeed, but it not to be discounted. If your daily life consists of one hundred and forty figurative packs of potato crumbs, one after the other, you're gonna hurt a lot. The death of a thousand cuts.

Then there's the emotional pain described in "Tuesdays with Morrie", and the intellectual pain the book caused me. Words like cynical manipulation occurred to me, but I have an awful feeling that Mitch was sincere. The whole books reads like a sports-writers efforts to avoid using cliches. Actualloy, it is a book by a sports-writer trying to prove that his lexicon includes more than the five great sporting cliches. Let's be fair, though. The book does describe, quite well, the pain an individual feels when someone s/he knows, loves, and admires is being torn apart by a debilitating illness. Where it goes wrong is in trying to build the dying man up as a reincarnation of Ghandi, Christ, Lenin, Lincoln, and Guevara. Morrie was a simple old professor of Sociology who didn't hold with post-modern consumerism. I happen to think his mind and heart were in the right place, but he was, ultimately, an unsuccessful teacher. He may have led by example, by it seems he had only one disciple: the ever ruminant Mitch. What I'd like to know about Mitch now is this: how big is your TV, Mitch. And how many do you have?

On to significant pain. A few years back my arthritis doctor asked me to grade the daily pain, a score of 1 being minor, 10 being the kind of spiritual and physical pain that makes one question his or her blasphemous atheistic point of view. I said that what I felt then would score a solid 6: the sort of pain that would move me to the over-use of four letter words. They say you forget pain, but you don't. Well, I don't, anyway. Nowadays, if I were to answer the same question, I'd say, yep, 6. And reflect that a few years ago i didn't know diddly about pain.

Frankly, I don't know how my father survived the way he did. His arthjritis was so much more severe than mine, and I have to wonder if I have the courage to live as cheerfully as he did. Still, when all is said and done, it is only a physical experience: it passes, and these are just a few bad days. I have an enormous number of good ones to come.

I can't allow myself to be ruled by pain. But I can try and let it teach me something. The main thing I've learned from the past few days is that I really don't like severe pain.

READING: Robert B Parker's "Appaloosa". A Western. The language is dry and sparse, elegant, and stirring. Thoroughly enjoyable.

LISTENING TO: Jackson Browne, "Time The Conqueror". He's grown up.

WORD OF THE DAY: Drugs. I love them. Especially the pain killing kind. All I have to do is remember to take the damn' things.


Adam ducked and spun and turned and reached and talon-fingers grabbed and gripped and stripped the ball from his opponent, and then he ran.
He ran. On legs as leaden and heavy as punching bags, with the wind rasping and scraping at his throat, the mud and the blood clinging to his boots, he ran and he dared not turn. He heard the yells and the shrieking and the cheering of his home crowd, he heard the blood roaring in his ears, he heard angelic choirs shouting hosannas, he heard his Mother yelling as she ran up the other side of the field, he heard a heavy footfall crash crash crash behind him, he heard the grunting and strain of someone else, an enemy behind him, and he stepped off his right, side-stepping dangerously wide, crash crash behind him, and nearly going over, and there was the sideline, a blur of white and he’s been running for an age, an eternity, civilizations have risen and fallen since to grabbed the ball, and oh god won’t someone take this burden from me, the ball a golden leather trophy tucked under his arm, a chain-weight of glory clasped to his chest, and the ground is sucking at his feet and the drool runs from his lips and down his chin and sweat slaps at his eyes blurring his vision and only 8 seconds have past and he’s an old man, leaden legs driving, lungs heaving, throat screaming, his face a rictus of pain and death and hope and love and he hears a grunting cry as he feels a despairing hand tap at his heel and his left boot goes behind his right ankle but it’s too late too late and he crashes over the try-line and the ball, the precious ball, the burden that he’s carried since time began was between him and the grass, and the try is scored.
And once again, the game is won with a Talbot playing. And the Talbot in question lies still, hearing the thunder of his blood and the heaving of his lunngs and his Mother’s there, kissing him and crying and laughing and cheering and sobbing and screaming and he looks over and there’s his Dad, there’s Henry Talbot, and his Dad’s smile outshines the sun, and Adam knows that it has all been worthwhile.
What was it that made Henry the man he is? Often, it’s nothing more than the actions of the people he loves.

Black Beauty
The horse stood at sixteen hands, and was jet black from fetlock to crupper, from crop to crapper.

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