Dun-colored dust flings from the supply wagons plodding ahead of me. We trudge, in our fifth year, lacerating the landscape out of Alexander's compulsion to conquer. We vomit groans in the night. Alexander, in his desire to command us, supplies the "flower of mercy"—OPIUM. The Poppy: red - of blood and death, white - of purity and oblivion. We live for these brief respites.
And we endure.
Beyond words, beyond sense of self… just… beyond. One of our philosophers—Aristotle, Alexander's teacher—proclaimed death as the great leveler of all beings. But we, the warriors that may live to go home, if we talk of our experience at all, will say that which equalizes is Pain.
As a Roman gladiator, I embody strength, bravery, the valor and terrifying, magnificent potency of the Roman Empire. But I am a myth, a myth built on a body operating on opium. We are condemned criminals, prisoners of war, or slaves bought for the purpose of gladiatorial combat. A few of us are professionals, free men so low on the social scale we volunteer to participate in the games. Our life spans: two to three years. Oh yes, we fight, with the help of opium, we fight, die, and…escape.
A Lesson in Evolution: Plantisis Verse I:IV, In the beginning there was
Morphine came to us in the early 1800s, thanks to a German chemist looking for something to increase the strength of opium. And in 1898, Heroin, which generated quite a lucrative trade, advertised via the famous Bayer aspirin company came in the guise of cough medicine, a combatant for pneumonia, and also tuberculosis, among other things. Not till after W.W. II did the League of Nations finally demand that it be pulled off the market. But Bayer kept the profits, along with the money the company made manufacturing the gas used in the Jewish death camps (with full government knowledge from the start).
And now, chemical labs known and unknown
a multitude of Drugs, in perpetuity, forever more,
in which we seek to obliterate torturous pain,
Pain: the stigmata. Holes ripping through life. Pain: The word made flesh. How to describe it?—the etiology, the history, the geography of pain. Pain that encompasses, pain that courses through breath, heartbeat, organs, joints, muscles, tendons, and bones. To sleep in pain. To wake in pain. To walk in pain. To breath in pain.
A Theoretical AsidePain, according to socio-biologists, is an evolutionary mechanism serving to warn creatures that something needs fixing. But what a crude contrivance it surely is as so often there is nothing that can be done; when an animal in the wild suffers an abscessed tooth, that creature will most likely starve to death. And as for the human beast, too many physical afflictions reduce us to putrid skin bags stuffed with agony. Perhaps a particular interpretation of such torment—that it is noble and righteous to suffer for its own sake, an end in itself—developed to provide succor in the midst of our helplessness. As a political tool, its lucrative result has been to keep the masses from fomenting rebellion. Then, taking into account the Christian/Puritan penchant for suffering as punishment for sin along with pain and self-flagellation as expressions of the spiritual, we get the strong, cultural view: "Grin and bear it." "Stiff upper lip." "Suffer in silence." "Put up with it." "No pain no gain." …..i.e., No one wants to hear about it, so SHUT UP.
A Theoretical AsideViewed from a Marxist point of view, the workers toil and hurt, and those that own the means of production benefit off their suffering. Supply and demand. Money makes the world go round. And capitalism rules.
My family has chosen the opium.
A Theoretical AsideTwenty-first century theory regarding pain control has meant cutting the nerve bundles that carry the pain message to the brain. Unfortunately, this surgical procedure affects the body the same way amputation does, the brain responding as if the pain signals were still being sent. Furthermore, they try to grow back—thus doubling the initial messages' intensities. But doctors ignore the data coming in from their patients since they have determined that their theory is based in logic. Their only other type of treatment available—pain medication. The AMA prefers neither alternative. Their final word: Let the patients live by pain alone.
And so we endured.
- - - - - - -
Agony. Pain from my cells attacking and eating my tissues, my mind, my thoughts, my soul, my very being. Physical: pain in my neck, epileptic pain messages spasming through my shoulders, along the side of my head, down my shoulder blades, wrapping my fingers and elbows and wrists and hip joints and knees and legs—worst of all, the bottoms of my feet. It hurt too much to put on a pair of socks. I could not hold the weight of a coffee cup. I couldn't hold a pen or a fork for the pressure against my fingers sent stabbing, radiating pain. I could not sit, stand, drive, or walk for longer than 20 minutes. Mental: words seared, thoughts mangled, connections bloodily hacked and dangling beyond repair.
Emotional: No room, no room, no room for........... any.............. self............... just............ pain................... exists..................Chroni
I could not
The Afterbirth: How cool! You get to be high all the time.
That's a myth.
Hey—got any to share?
No. It's a medication.
Lucky you. I'd love to be "out of it" all the time.
You try working with no memory, fatigue, and pain.
You shouldn't be on that stuff. It's bad for you. Learn to cope some other way.
Thanks for the advice.
Oh, come on, picking up that book can't possibly hurt.
Based on what? Your health?
You're kidding! That slight brush with the edge of the table hurt? I can't believe it.
You don't have to.
So you can't sit in any of these chairs. I guess you'll just have to live with it.
So what do you expect from me? Pity? Boo hoo?
From you? I just want you to leave me the fuck alone.
If they succeed, I also will choose deathrk
Dedication for A Painful Truth
While I wrote this piece six years ago, as far as the attitudes of the people I casually run into these days, when my disability comes up [in reality a combination of several chronic illnesses], unfortunately, the lack of understanding as well as the unwillingness to understand—even to insist that they know more than the doctors, researchers, biologists, myself, etc., combined, has grown exponentially. Not only do so many people adamantly believe they know what is right for me, this belief now extends to prejudging me: condescendingly, arrogantly, belittllingly, debasingly…. And this judgment extends far beyond me.
So I am dedicating this piece to everyone who has been made to feel less than equal, less than full—to everyone who has been condescended to, been prejudged and dismissed simply because they do not fit within the petty, minuscule box the abusers have decided defines “normal.” This piece, though it is limited to my particular circumstances dealing just with my illness [as opposed to all the other ways people have attempted to demean me], is written for all who have experienced prejudice in whatever form. In fact, almost every piece on this blog deals with some form of injustice and bigotry. As long as I have the ability, I hope to continue to speak out on such issues.