My right foot has a walking difficulty. I have been trying unsuccessfully to cure it for as long as I’ve had it. That’s about twenty years.
No one in the medical field has been able to diagnose it. The handicap corresponds more or less to some telltale spots on an MRI in the area of the brain that governs locomotion on the right side. That said, there are several labels that neurologists would normally reach for to describe the disability. But, as it happens, none of them exactly fits my symptoms.
Since no one whom I’ve conferred with in the medical establishment has a cure, the fact that they haven’t agreed on the right name for it hasn’t bothered me. From what I’ve been advised, even if they could pin the tail on the donkey, they couldn’t cure it.
Sounds hopeless, doesn’t it. Time to give up? The trouble is,
I don’t know that.
Aristotle said: all men [and women] desire to know. I won’t know for sure that it’s hopeless till I’ve exhausted the available remedies – turned over every stone.
The neurologists recommended exercise. Since it couldn’t hurt, I do that religiously. I can do the Eliptical for 15 minutes with no hands, Total Gym and a few yoga asanas. The combined effect of these probably kept the condition from getting worse. But they haven’t made it better.
Lately, and most interesting to me, I’ve started therapeutic riding with a great teacher. It’s worth a post all by itself – so meaningful is it to me – but so far I still can’t walk worth a damn.
Since the white-coats have not come up with a diagnosis – and I have no reason to believe that all the causes affecting you or me are physical – how do I think I got in this fix?
Here is what I believe caused it. There was a time in my not-exactly-trouble-free life when I found myself caught inside a conflicting pair of summonses: willing me to walk through a certain line of conduct and – at one and the same time – willing me not to walk that line. While this was happening, I had no way of sidestepping these two contradictory commands of the will. As a result, the neurons in my brain that governed walking simply shorted out.
Does that hypothesis seem far-fetched? Don’t let the “identity theorists” (who hold that the mind IS the brain) lead you down their garden path. How the brain causes mental events is NOT better understood than how the mind causes brain events. That said, experience tells us that both kinds of causal relations take place all the time.
Since I believed – nay, was morally certain – that the root cause of my disability was mental, not physical, why did I not seek a mental cure? Well, the proximate cause was verifiably neurological. I had no reason to suppose that the talking cures offered by psychotherapy were able to reach that deep into the physical system.
But I did think healers who tried to reach, by psychical means, the places in the energy system where the blockage resided, might be able to get at it. I had tried acupuncture, which had not worked. But there were other types of psychic healing to try. I tried several. Almost all were at least interesting.
One such healer was able to banish several ailments — unconnected with my walk — but nice to get rid of anyway. Patients who are given sugar water capsules, but told that they are getting newly-discovered powerful drugs, tend to get cured almost as often as patients given real medications. The phenomenon is called “the placebo effect.” Were these apparent cures just the placebo effect?
Who knows? They worked. Had they cured my foot, I wouldn’t have cared if they had been the placebo effect. But they didn’t cure my foot.
Why do I care so much? Many people suffer handicaps far more serious than mine. Who am I to hope – beyond all reason – for a cure?
What I love about strolling
is the way
the dynamic of one’s body,
its inmost rhythm,
catches the outer rhythms –
of woodland, of cityscapes,
of museums with their disparate treasures,
of crowds, of one’s own solitude –
and dances with it all.
I am not reconciled to saying farewell to all that and I never will be.