hero’s journey

Since Friday I’ve ben radioactive. Truly all the way radioactive. They read me on a Geiger counter. I was disappointed that it didn’t click like it does in the movies.

Now I’m a sci fi action hero—on the hero’s journey like J. Campbell talks about. Leaving the nest…Kicked out to go find the magic I can bring back to save everyone.

Passed so many fairy tale tests along the way. Is this the last one? There is always another straw, so I dare not say it is the last. But I anticipate recovering my strength and capacity. Wise women who went before have told me it will return.

I miss being able to think. My mind is weak. Sci fi is a great genre for this experience. An old short story Flowers for Algernon. It’s a dark problematic story of how a mentally challenged young man gets some drugs that worked on a rat named Algernon to make him smarter. He gets genius level and then loses it.

He once understood things. Once upon a time he was extraordinary.

And I feel it. I feel the weight I am carrying I as I try to remember and think clearly. I can’t. I can’t yet.  

Some things yes. 

It also depends on whether things line up. How much pain am I in? Will I get a good night’s sleep? Will I have the right size of task to warm up on? Will I get the right food and also not be upset in a way that saps my energy?

I started to read a beautiful book Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance again, and the writing was so painfully beautiful I had to stop.  I can’t bear it right now.

Is this part of what it’s like to be 80? What I talked about here?

So I’m re-reading The Expanse, and I started in on the second book Caliban’s War.  Sci fi novel made into a TV show, categorically easy reading.

In the first parts of the book, Praxidike Meng joins Holden’s crew on the broken Ganymede landscape after a desperate, starved  and unfruitful search for his daughter. They feed him. And this bit of the story is written out:

Over the course of hours, his mind started coming back. It felt like waking up over and over without falling asleep in between. Sitting in the hold of Holden’s ship, he’d find himself noticing the shift in his cognition—how much more clearly he could think and how good it felt to come back to himself. And then a few minutes later, some set of sugar deprived ganglia would struggle back to function and it would all happen again. And with every step back toward real consciousness he felt the drive growing

I know I am not myself right now. I am more tired than I was during chemo. I have flashes of clear thinking capacity that quiver and collapse under the load.

The man/boy in Flowers for Algernon and my circumstances also remind me of John Stuart Mill’s pig. Do you remember John Stuart Mill’s pig? In his classic age-of-enlightenment essay Utilitarianism ?

“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question.” 

I am not a child. I know both sides of it. I am a human being dissastified. And I worry that maybe I’ll never get it back

Updike’s Rabbt Run comes to mind:

“after you’re first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate.”

Now that I’ve found that quote I remember how I dislike that character. There was nothing about him I wanted to emulate, except how he crafted words around his complaints. And that was the author anyway.

I’ll go back and get it right..This maudlin isn’t helping. Alfred Lord Tennyson has what I need:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

That I can do.. I shall not yield.

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