Dear Alphonso Lingis,
I wanted to say--bring out that amputee again! The one with the knife tricks in Rio, who made the tourists feel as if they could go home to clean suburbs and have a little empathy for "disfigured"and "crippled' peoples. Oh, but you see, I put too hard a read on that, do not let myself stay soft, with awe. Get tripped up in reacting, quietly, to what I heard--a narration that took all its import from the the use of the disabled spectacle....
In trying to locate the gratitude in that language...I decide you were aiming to create a vessel for awe. Which is why I did not speak up. Because, I felt a bit silenced--I looked a little too much like the vessels you used for your ideas, to feel that I could speak. It would be kind of weird to out myself as the awe.
But, certainly, I know what you mean by the awe. Though it is taboo for me to admit it in disability community circles--I feel it when I am with someone more "disabled" than I. Because I stand so much closer to their place on a spectrum and still, have to stretch my somatics to imagine....and then, the joy, that we all persist and create (even when we don't) and do clever tricks with blades.
Tricks...there was a kind of circusy vibe to your talk, I think....
Which is OK. Defetishize the freaks, break the container of the individual "sufferer"! Let there be larger, more intimate containers for other mixings....So, my offering, at least in gesture: bring out the Brazilian armless man again! Invite him to do a collaborative improv on some island you have yet to visit (Can we get him there on a Fulbright? --check out www.miusa.org..Can he get a gig with AXIS dance--especially the insects/prosthetics dance?) And then, let's talk bodies and phenomenology!
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Some notes to myself after the Alphonso Lingis talk at the Poetics of Healing Symposium (3/3/10):
It is a mysterious process, this reading and responding with written individualized feedback to [med] students’ reflective narratives as we accompany them on their journey of personal and professional identity development. Rita Charon captured the awe: "What a remarkable obligation toward another human being is enclosed in the act of reading or listening" (1, p.53) This became my mantra as I diligently typed at my computer, striving to craft meaningful, quality feedback to the students’ narratives that had sailed across cyberspace to land on my screen. I tried hard to establish a "comfort zone", a trusting "mentor" relationship where an embryo doc could safely share vulnerabilities and uncertainties, personal angst and yes, triumphs, dramatic moments and perhaps even more meaningfully, everyday moments of caring that should be recognized by a self-aware, mindful practitioner (student and teacher alike). And, I learned, it wasn't a bad idea to keep "oven mitts" (2) nearby for the "hot" stuff, the personal and/or professional content that can be challenging for both writer and reader, albeit less frequently encountered. Life is not sanitized, homogenized, or neatly packaged. Neither are narratives.[ ]Rita Charon appreciated the value of considering the nuance and texture of patients' experiences of illness as well as what students themselves were undergoing in providing patient care, even though "you cannot write that in the hospital chart, we will not let you". (1, p.156) "And yet", she instructed clerkship students (and later, residents as well), "it has to be written somewhere. You write it in the parallel chart" (1, p.156) In similar fashion, I suggest, the teacher's experience of the student's narrative, of the student's "narrative writing in the service of the care of a particular patient" (1, p.157) can be considered a "parallel 'parallel chart'". In essence, my narrative writing evoked by the student's text is in "the service of the care of a particular student", regardless of whether all of it or none of it appears in my formal written feedback. “The Parallel Parallel Chart”, Commentary by Hedy S. Wald, Ph.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI. Literature, Arts and Medicine blog.
Petra Kuppers on her boredom with disability disclosure and how she favors a transforming of personal illness/injury narratives into an immediate sensory group artwork.
The vessel as matter: deterritorialising and reterritorialising, familiar and strange, shaping into form, and shaped out of formlessness, fired in the light and baked in the earth’s darkness, hardened only to crumble and crack again with the ages, returning to dust. These disclosures are in time and space—they are not narratives that create an archive or a body of knowledge. They breathe, and vibrate, and press against skin. What can be contained, what leaks, what finds its way through the membrane? [“your darkness also/rich and beyond fear”: Community Performance, Somatic Poetics and the Vessels of Self and Other.]
When does an architecture of devastation—the changed body after illness or through persisting low grade illness that has been assimilated as process—become another kind of architecture? When does such an architecture, a ruin/a body become something that far exceeds its history, a (de)structure exploding with futurity?