Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On Healing

First appeared in Outwords, Nov. 2010

We all need healing and need it constantly. From womb to tomb this life, this world, is injurious and harsh. Constantly we are being wounded, if not by one thing, then by two others. Wounding and healing, wounding and healing, thus do the wheels of existance go upon their eternal way.

Of the wounding, what can we say? It is there, it is real, it is not going away anytime soon. The phsyical wounding begins with the severing of our infant selves from t.he cord of life that had bound us to our mothers. Our body's first act in this world is to heal the umbilical wound; our lives begin with repairing this initial act of violent separation.

From then on life is much the same, both physically and in other, more subtle ways; injuries accruing, wounds being delivered not so much out of any malice or ill-will, but rather as a matter of course, a part of the normal functioning of the world machinery. The wounds come early and often: from the taunts of other children, from the aloof or absent parent, from the dead pet, the failed test, the internalized sex-shame of an entire society. Later we are wounded by the grim drudgery of the day-to-day, by constant anxieties over money, by the casual insensitivity of others, not to mention the betrayals of trust, the worsening health, the eroding foundation. To live is to be injured, to exist is to bleed in a thousand ways, some obvious to the eyes of others, some hidden in the deepest recesses of the heart.

And so healing is the continual occupation of the living. Healing and the search for healing drives us to all manner of things, some appropriate, some not. Where we turn for healing and whether or not we find it there, whether we find it at all, dictates much of our individual lives and our subjective experiences of them.
As the child turns to its mother for healing and comfort, we turn to drink, to entertainment, to religion, to romantic partners; nearly all of us turn to consumerism. We look for healing in a million and one places, ease our aches and salve our wounds with a thousand supposed remedies. Our problems arise when we put a band-aid where stitches are called for, “fix” the toothache with a shot of novacaine instead of a root canal.

The injuries of life are not a problem if one knows where and how to become healed, but if we only numb the pain instead of dealing with the wounds, the injuries begin to mount. The novacaine wears off, the band-aid peels away to reveal yesterday's (or last year's) laceration still raw and sore. The wounds accumulate until our entire being is nothing but cuts on top of bruises, all red and aching. If we cannot find healing, eventually we must succumb; but we can go on for a long time like this, wounded and bleeding, covered in band-aids and hopped-up on painkillers, yet still unhealed. Our world is full of these walking wounded. I imagine, gentle reader, that we are both among them; that we are all among them to one extent or another.

What is it that provides true healing and what is it that only blinds us to our problems? Are we seeking to be healed, or only to cover our wounds from the eyes of the world and from our own eyes? Where has our need for healing led us and is it where we truly wish to be? Questions, it seems, worthy of our attention, and yet questions we too seldom consider. Advertisers, politicos, and priests as well as everyone else, it seems, are hawking a healing ointment of one variety or another; if we do not consider these questions we risk ending up with the snake-oil instead of the healing balm.

There are many who trumpet their knowledge of how to get healed, get saved, get enlightened, and some may be right, but without an awareness of our own wounds and need for healing, we will never be able to know for sure which one is the healer and which the huckster.

No comments: