Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Palimpsest

When my career was young and I knew what I knew, I found myself suddenly surrounded by a exceedingly dense fog. I could not find my way and I was directionless. I reached with all my strength into the dense fog, well up to my shoulder and suddenly something touched my hand. I couldn't feel it move away, but I grasped it in desperation so it wouldn't escape and pulled it out of the mist. It was a parchment. It appeared old; brown,wrinkled, lined with age and on its surface there was a script, written line by line, filling the parchment face, full of strange cryptic characters. When the fog lifted I sat at my desk and tried to imagine what I had been given. I did not understand the script and so I concluded that those writings therefore must be irrelevant. As a result I took my eraser and erased the printed characters. Having done so there were still the indents on the parchment face where the writer had pressed on the stylus. On that blank page, now available to me, I wrote a treatise on the nature of modern medicine. I had seemed to have found my way; I wasn't directionless, and I knew what I knew. Still, I was haunted by the strange characters I had erased and became aware that I knew what I  didn't know. Later, I had a dream in which the written description of those exquisite simulacra from the past, appeared to me in translation. I realized that I had erased and overwritten that former script because of the hubris I felt about the present and the failure to know the relevance of what I never knew. I erased my treatise on modern medicine and burnished the indented parchment to bring back, into life,  the indentations. A palimpsest through the fog and mist of time was a gift to teach me what I need to know.

Time Anxiety

My mother and her twin sister would meet my grandfather at 5 pm at Portage and Main and they would get a ride home to Little Britain each night. My mother was at Normal School on the Pembina campus and my aunt in Medical School on the Bannatyne campus. If they were late to arrive at the downtown location my grand father would leave them behind and go home on his own. In the winter, Portage and Main resembled Greenland. If they were late they would then have to take the street car, north to the end of the line and transfer to the infrequent bus for the 20 odd kilometers all told, and arrive home at 7 or 8 pm. Growing up with my mother I knew she had time anxiety and her constant refrain for any or all appointments where I was hauled along was, " Hurry. Hurry. Hurry." It is not within the nature of little boys to hurry, hurry, hurry, but over time these emminations were assimilated. After all, your mother is your mother! And so, inevitably, I also have time anxiety. It drives the pianist crazy. To lighten the mood I will play act by pawing the floor like a bull. It may have been funny the first time but not the endless agitation. Since she understands the irrationality and is always ready to go in an organized fashion she never plays a taunting hand. The curious thing about time anxiety I note is that those who have it, often walk close to the edge of their cliff of fear, a self imposed dawdle, that enhances the truth of their reaction, instead of leaving a little earlier to reduce the fear. Dawdling followed by anxiety was characteristic of both my mother and me. We rarely if ever missed the appointments, as I recall, but I now know it was all my grandfather's fault and not my mother's.