I am my mind and my body, and they are me. So it is that my self-consciousness imagines itself. My inner thoughts, unspoken but constructed of words nonetheless, convert my embodied experience of being to the symbolic and then back to embodied again. I feel hungry; I think “I am hungry;” I find something to eat that satisfies my hunger.
As my body communicates wordlessly through sensory messages about itself and its relationship with the world, my mind, in constant communication with my body, generates a continuous froth of images, impulses, and desires. Whatever distractions, thoughts, or ideas occupy my conscious experience of the moment, a silent, deeper dialogue between my mind and body proceeds continuously, explicit only upon occasion. Such occasions often manifest as physical symptoms of pain, discomfort, or desire and reflect conditions not just of my body, but also of my mind, ie: metaphorical me.
A few weeks ago I turned over in bed from my right to my left side and suddenly the world abruptly began to spin. Although lying perfectly still, a wild dizziness consumed me. I broke into a cold sweat and felt nausea rising to my throat. Sensing no relief in lying down, I gathered myself at the edge of the bed and sat up, and although feeling as if sitting on the deck of a small ship tossed by the sea, the spinning stopped. After a few moments, I regained my bearings well enough to stand up, and carefully walked to the kitchen. “Perhaps my blood sugar has dropped too low,” I thought, “Maybe its low blood pressure.” Neither was the case, it turned out.
The dizziness I experienced was vertigo, or more precisely, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. A small piece of calcium crystal called “otoconia” that normally forms and resides quietly within a pocket in the inner ear had migrated to a portion of the inner ear canal where it did not belong, stimulating and disrupting my sense of balance. I spent the morning dizzy and vomiting, the day remaining upright, and slept overnight in a sitting position on the couch. By the following morning I still felt a bit woozy but the major symptoms had passed. I’m still feeling woozy from time to time.
I could pass this off as just another sign of growing older, what poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen called traversing “the foothills of old age,” but I don’t think it’s just about my body. I think my mind is dizzied. What’s going on in America and the world right now is vertiginous, spinning out of control in ways I never imagined. Politically, socially, and culturally, behaviors and attitudes I thought we’d put behind us have emerged with renewed vigor and intensity. Racism, hatred, mass murder, political corruption, ecological insanity, and the fracturing of society have left me spinning. It’s no wonder I’m dizzy. My vertigo’s metaphoric.
Of course, the entire universe is spinning, so why shouldn’t I? From infinitesimally small electrons to the earth, the solar system, the Milky Way itself…all and everything is spinning, tracing spirals upon spirals in space and time. The illusion of stillness is a miracle of nature, and that my mind and body shatter that illusion sends its own message about not getting too comfortable and smug.
It all makes sense. There’s no reason to fight it. Existence is woozy and I’m woozy right along with it.