April 22nd, 2012

Another Nosebleed

Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes you are ready.


At l00 hours Friday morning, the moment my head his the pillow, my nose started to bleed.  A few minutes later  Dianne asked if there was anything wrong.  I said, yes i have a bloody nose.  I could tell right away that this was a bad one.  But i had handled bad nosebleeds before.  As a last resort, i could always drive myself to the hospital, and "they would fix it".  In fact, on at least three occasions a nosebleed stopped the second i entered a clinic or doctor's waiting room.  Talk about medical miracles.

After about two hours of futile efforts to stop the bleed i but the phone beside Dianne in the bed and told her i was going to have to go to the emergency room to get my nose fixed again.  She said fine, go, so i went.  The ER physician immediately saw that he could do nothing for the bleeding and called the ENT surgeon on call and i was ushered into an operating room.  At 530 hours i awoke in the Intensive Care Unit with what felt like three/quarter inch steel pipe rammed down my throat to who knows where.  I could not speak but my outrage over this intrusion into my body was evident.  I was told that artery had burst and had been cauterized.  I later learned that in addition to the two units of blood i was given on Saturday, i had had three units pumped into me during and immediately after the surgery.  Dianne was kept informed by the hospital of what was going on.  She called our older daughter who came over to be with her,  It is now Sunday afternoon and i am safely back home, but with a persistent cough and a very painful belly when i cough,

One of the many good people in charge of my care is a PhD candidate in Nursing (Administration?) and doing her dissertation as a study of burnout among Idaho Nurses.  I had occasion to tell of the dialogue between Ivan and Zazimov (inThe Brothers Karamazov) in which Ivan is trying to defend himself as a caring person.  I would have become a nurse, he said, were it not for the fact the patients are so damned ungrateful.  The Monk responds in a line treasured by Dorothy Day: "Compared to love in dreams, my son, love in life is a harsh and dreadful thing.

Death experiences are supposed to promote spiritual growth.  Near death experiences?   Not quite so much,  It is difficult to put my  life into the hands of other people and hope that they care about it as much as i do,  I did not well hear the many messages of compassion that were directed toward me.  The reason for this of course is that my life is still about me, not about others or the world,

Walt Whitman – A child said What is the grass?

[6] A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands (from Song of Myself)
by Walt Whitman

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands,
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Canuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roof of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.

— from Song of Myself, by Walt Whitman

"With Whitman we ask, what is grass really?

"It is green hope. It is a handkerchief flirtatiously dropped by God to draw our thoughts to the lovely Face. It is the “babe of vegetation,” the embodiment of new life and new growth in the plant world.

"It is a hieroglyphic, a message layered with hidden meaning. It is a universal teaching encoded in life itself: Like the world’s green grasses, we must give generously of ourselves, equally to high and low, without regard to race or nation. Like the grass, it is our nature to grow and to be present, to share our life in every land and landscape.

"Then Whitman enters an extended meditation on how grass connects life and death–

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves…
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men…

"Why this gloomy turn? He doesn’t just imagine the graves of the elderly, people who had lived a full measure of life, but he sees too the graves of young men even infants “taken soon out of their mothers’ laps.” It is important to remember that Whitman is writing in the aftermath of the American Civil War. In fact, during the war, he worked in the New York hospitals. He well knew the unromantic realities of war, how the young are sacrificed, the loss of an entire generation.

"But you notice here, and elsewhere in his poetry, he makes room even for suffering and violence and death in his philosophy. While he clearly has a compassionate heart, he doesn’t simply label some experiences as unjust which he will then heroically oppose. Instead, it is as if he watches it all — the beauty and the suffering, everything — unfolding… within himself. It is all him; it is all in the scope of his being. Doing this, he accomplishes a truly courageous feat: integration.

"Through that integration, we gain a new vision. We see not life with its end in death, but a living, organic flow of life becoming life becoming life, a perpetual vision of self-renewal. And the grass is the embodiment of this process.

"While the dead lie beneath the ground, this green life grows from their now quiet bodies, nourished by their hopes. From the dead comes such pure, delicate new life.

"Though there is definitely much to be mourned in Whitman’s catalog of the dead, personally I find it profoundly healing. The grass, the growth of new life, seems to draw even the most “wrongful” death into a realm of wholeness and continuity. This vision, which has made room for death, yet understood it as part of a greater unfolding of life, welcomes us back into the family of life. Is it weird to say that?

The smallest sprout shows there is really no death.

"Don’t you love that line?

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.

"That last line, every time I read it I am brought to a halt, ready to laugh out loud. What is he saying? “To die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.”

"This whole poem has been his observation of how life renews itself, even through death. But here Whitman seems to be implying something more personal and open-ended, as if his meditation has led him to the awareness that death is a sort of initiation into a broader participation in existence. He doesn’t seem to espouse a simplistic notion of life after death, but he definitely implies a continuation of awareness beyond death. What do you think he intended? Or did he intend a specific meaning at all? Maybe it’s more of a teasing, Zen-like riddle that doesn’t offer an answer so much as a pathway of questioning…"  Ivan Granger.

"At the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman vowed to live a “purged” and “cleansed” life. He wrote freelance journalism and visited the wounded at New York-area hospitals. He then traveled to Washington, D.C. in December 1862 to care for his brother who had been wounded in the war. Overcome by the suffering of the many wounded in Washington, Whitman decided to stay and work in the hospitals. Whitman stayed in the city for eleven years. He took a job as a clerk for the Department of the Interior, which ended when the Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan, discovered that Whitman was the author of Leaves of Grass, which Harlan found offensive. Harlan fired the poet.

"Whitman struggled to support himself through most of his life..." .– from Poets.org

Poetry Chaikhana Blog » Walt Whitman – A child said What is the grass?