Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Mortification, and a Tale of Woe

On Saturday, eleven days ago, whilst Lucy was in England doing her knitting wool thing, Molly and I were taking a stroll around the local Plan d'Eau. The weather and the ground were damp that day, and there came a moment when, lo and behold, I found myself lying on my back and gazing at the limited wonders of an overcast sky. My first reaction to this unexpected state of affairs was to murmur, "Oh Moll!" as I discovered I had let go her lead. Now as you probably know, our Molly is as deaf as a beautiful, black post; her eyesight isn't up to much either. Thus it was with a sense of pleasure and relief that I felt her snuffling my face, with her tail banging against my chest. She had not wandered off, and was safe. It was only when I realised what a fool I might have looked, lying on a wet and gritty path, that I found the necessaries to get back on my feet, and drive home.

At home, I was engaged in the partial laying of a new hall floor, a task I wished to complete before Lucy returned home on the Monday, two days hence. This I did manage to do although the pain in my right thigh, and a slight niggle in my right knee, was causing some difficulty. You see, when I fell - I had caught my foot in a grass-camouflaged animal hole - I did so with my bunch of car keys and my purse/wallet in my right-hand trouser pocket. If I knew the values of the parameters involved in the thigh/keys/wallet-to-ground contact, I'd happily calculate the force of the contact for you. It felt like many tonnes per square centimetre. (Alright, tons per square inch then.) As the week progress, my thigh improved quite satisfactorily. Unfortunately, unsuspected damage to my right knee, held in abeyance whilst my thigh healed, now made itself unpleasantly apparent.

Yesterday, having collected all the reasons I needed to see my local GP, (my alarmingly colourful knee and associated pains, two hypodermic syringes of anti-flu stuff for Lucy and me - mine's free - and a request for my annual blood test) off we went to the surgery. After some gentle poking and prodding, and slight manipulation, the doctor concluded that there had been a sprain, damage to various ligaments, bleeding into the knee joint, and possible disruption to the meniscus between the thigh bone and the lower leg bones. (For those interested that's a cartilage between the femur and the tibia and fibula, the whole joint suffering the effects of a haematoma.) At the completion of our visit, and not needing to have an X-ray - which can be a real pain, sitting in a clinic with sick people and screamingly ebullient kids running around - we went on our way rejoicing, as the saying goes, to 'la pharmacie' for some painkillers.

It has to be said that yesterday I was feeling rather less than well. Nights are difficult to cope with at present, and when the morning finally arrived, and finding me in something of a 'below par' state, I was offered breakfast in bed.

"Poor Tom!" I hear you saying, "Needing to be fussed and coddled."

Now please do not be concerned on my account. Being fussed and coddled by Lucy is not something I have a strong aversion to; in fact I have no aversion to it at all;  I will go further and say I rather like it. So there you are, confession is good for the soul, and so is fussing and coddling.

This morning, meditation was very difficult. Frankly, I was feeling on the up and found it difficult to find a sense of inner tranquillity. I burned a stick of frankincense and myrrh (well you have to do things properly, and my knee is far from pain-free) but it didn't help. Then, before I had a chance to start beating up on myself for my failure to carry out my spiritual exercise in a successful manner (get thee behind me, Ego!), some thoughts came to mind. But before sharing those thoughts with you, let me say that in my experience mortification of the senses was a necessary path out of the extreme spiritual difficulties in which I found myself in the late-eighties/early-nineties. I have never found physical mortification an attractive proposition, so have never indulged, except when falling down when taking a stroll, or similar experiences.

Now let me share those thoughts I alluded to a little earlier.

"When the will, the moment if feels any joy in sensible things [experiences of the senses - my brackets] rises upwards in that joy to God, and when sensible things move it to pray, it should not neglect them, it should make use of them for so holy an exercise;  because sensible things, in these conditions, subserve the end for which God created them, namely to be occasions for making Him better known and loved."
                                                                                                    [St. John of the Cross]

So I don't feel bad about my morning meditation. The next thought is one I really like.

"Anybody who wishes to do so can get all, and indeed more than all, the mortification he wants out of the incidents of ordinary, day-to-day living, without ever resorting to harsh bodily penance."                                                                                                                    [Aldous Huxley]

So that's alright then! My fall (Oh the pain! Oh the agony! etc. etc.) turned out to be a blessing in disguise?..........No-o-o-o-o-o!


  1. Having witnessed contemporaries taking seemingly innocent falls that have put them in the hospital for hip replacements, or knee reconstruction surgery, I can only say glad you are still mobile after encountering that hidden animal hole.
    Take your pain killers. Enough mortification of the flesh Tom! :-)

  2. Halle; I wish the damned painkillers would work. As for the mortification, I shall take your gentle words to heart, and arise a new and thankful man.

  3. I took a tumble on an outdoor stair, spraining my knee sideways at the betginning of the summer. The aftermath is still with me, a smallish knot of pain just to the inner side of my knee and the pain comes and goes, I suppose as the swelling rises and falls. There is one other thing with this wound. I feel quite unsteady with that leg especially descending stairs. I take no meds: it is mostly not that bad a hurt, and when it is the pain subsides fairly quickly. I hope you have better luck with yours.

    I fully understand the inner state of being on the ground of a sudden, wondering if all is okay.

  4. Tom, I feel your pain. I wrote recently about a friend who has just suffered his second knee replacement surgery (different knee) and, while it probably will do him some good, he doesn't recommend it. Please take care, my friend.

    I, too, understand the calamity of being on the ground and unable to rise. It seems my legs have given up on that task by themselves. So, recently, having foolishly got down to do something silly on the ground I found I could not rise until I crawled over to a platform in the rear yard and hoisted myself above ships. Old age is a damned insult and we all must take better care of ourselves, it seems.

    Regarding your spiritual quest, I have just finished "The Happy Atheist" by PZ Myers and found it salutory, though it was true to my penchant from the start.


  5. Christopher, I hope your knee injury continues to improve, particularly as the problems you have with your eyesight must be disorienting. I am mobile, after a fashion, and that is much to be thankful for. I do have a lump developing, just above my knee, as the swelling goes down, and that is now the focus of my discomfort. I just wish I could overcome the natural urge to have a good stretch in bed. But stretching is just so delightfully physical. We all do it, animals included.

  6. Bruce, I will try to take more care, as you advise. The problem is that events occur so unexpectedly. And at the time I was concentrating on guiding Molly away from some potentially damaging brambles that had grown onto the public footpath.

    If I didn't have so much quite serious reading to get through, I would certainly read "The Happy Atheist". For now, the best I can do is to note the title and author and just hope for the chance to read him. Thanks for the lead.

  7. I know. It is most of the time a distraction problem. It was my blind eye that was the principal cause of my fall. I was searching for something, I forget what but it was to my left so my head was twisted far more to the left than I would have been because of the left side blindness. I was relying on memory and my memory was faulty. I have that stretching problem too. Sometimes I wake myself up.

    That's why I use a cane as well, not because I need it all the time but because I might if I do fall and also to not fall.

  8. I hope you are feeling better by now, Tom.
    Maybe if for whatever reason you had to fall you should count your blessings that it happened there and not during the scarf show. These wood stoves are hard to crash on.
    Although I have not fallen recently I can not allow myself to stretch when I wake up because I get cramps in my calves.

  9. Ellena; The progress is slow, but I hope sure. The wood-burning stoves are indeed hard, but still cold. Lighting fires comes after the electric space-heating comes on. I don't know how you cannot allow yourself to stretch; I do it before I'm hardly awake.

  10. I have a feeling Moll's concern for your well being took precedence over any thoughts she may have had about wandering off. Dogs are much more sensitive to our circumstances than we may often guess.

    I'm glad you didn't get seriously injured in your fall - although what did happen sounds nasty and painful enough. It's good you allowed yourself to be coddled and better still you have someone so willing to bring you breakfast in bed.

    I've had a few mortifications myself but the most spectacular was this one.

  11. Susan, dear Susan; Horror of horrors. It is stories like yours that shows just how close we all are to the very brink of existence. Like with all complex and complicated mechanisms, there is just so much that can go awry.

    Your comments to Gwynt over the few months that I have been writing shows me that I, as with others with whom you are in contact, are deeply blessed by your continued presence in our lives.

    But, lord, what a story. I shall now go and take an ineffective painkiller, and count my blessings - again.

  12. good that all is good. Pride may preced the fall...but the pain that follows can be ... nasty. I slipped on some ice last February, ruptured a lung and spent five days hospitalized and heavily dosed with morphine. I believe it was in that state of mind that I reflected back on a story of happenstance and subsequent enlightenment. I will relate for you perusal.

    In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee, inspected the elephants foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it.

    As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away.

    Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

    Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenage son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

    Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter could not help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.

    The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

    Probably wasn't the same elephant.

    ......there may be a moral there...but it escapes me.

  13. Okjimm? I don't believe it, not for one second!

  14. neither do I.....but I sure do like it...kind of like my life so far.

  15. Oh dear! Good thing it wasn't far worse. But don't just endure the pain, find some medication that works, maybe even an alternative to the drugstore kind which may promote healing at the same time.

    Glad you have kept your sense of humour intact, Tom!

  16. Hullo Marja-Leena; It isn't easy to find an alternative. particularly as the French do seem to be very much into Paracetamol which never did much for me. My preferred option of Aspirin wasn't any use either; just as well really as with the risk of further bleeding into the joint counted against it. Now morphine would have been just the ticket. Unfortunately, that was unavailable.

    Wine and Armagnac helped a lot!! With those I received some relief and some pleasure. Couldn't ask for more :)

  17. I would go with something more like this,

    If not that specific brand or style. I have a similar one when my knee is pestering me, and it helps calm the irritation.

  18. Thank you Zhoen. I do have something similar which I acquired for a previous knee injury, but which is non-adjustable. I was advised not to wear it in bed, the time I most wanted it on. Fortunately, the need for the support is now disappearing.

    With your present difficulties, it was very kind of you to consider my problems. Bless you.