This Marmite post seeks to explore the idea of healing.
When I was young, I fell off my bike quite regularly and was always walking around with huge band-aids and sometimes bandages on my knees. Under the band-aids were sometimes deep gashes, and when I think about healing, I think about watching those gashes mend themselves. From the inside out, always – cells and tissues self-generating to grow and hold and grow and hold until a layer had formed and then another – three-dimensional weaving of tight skin that breathes itself into place so that, when the healing is done, the fabric is sound. No residue of pain or weakness. The body does this – over and over.
The wounds of the mind are – I contend – the abuse of constant, regular, and multifaceted dishonesty. We are ‘mind-fucked’ all the time since the minute we are born. When I know something and yet am told by people I trust and depend on that the opposite it true; when I am sure of what is right and yet am forced to accept a wrong; when the very basic truths my existence is built on are set aside and I am given an alternative set and told that my continued existence depends on my accepting this – this is mind-fucking. Tearing the fabric.
I watch a man with one leg drag himself down a dusty street in Besant Nagar, Chennai. An old man – older than my father – he has a bowl in one hand and literally pulls himself around – sticks and stones for limbs and bones for cheeks. I am walking by with a large shopping bag in my hand, just come out of FabIndia, where I have spent a great deal of money on clothes and rugs for my house. I watch this man, this grandfather, make his way in the mud on the street and I put a coin in his bowl. The mind tears. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. And yet it is. I am told and I tell myself that this man’s state is OK – that it is even the way things should be – that my relative wealth is a result of something I did or do – that this man’s fate is his own. I KNOW that none of this is true. I know that his ‘fate’ is a result of someone else’s greed, corruption, and laziness, all of which have probably befitted me in some way; but if I face this head-on, I will be unable to live with myself and in my world. And so I shut it out and the mind rips a little more.
We self-interestedly cheat and lie in small and big ways while playing with mirrors that show us as we want to be seen. We put up with horrendous things by justifying and rationalizing or by hiding. We allow our politicians to feed the rich and starve the poor and we do nothing, probably because we hope to be fed and are afraid of starving. We know that this is wrong, and we use our clever words to justify it, and our minds are wounded. We abuse animals, hate our neighbors, enact laws that destroy thousands, steal water and land from those we have stripped of the power to fight us. We mistreat our children – humans we have brought into this world and with whose well-being we are especially charged.
Whether we know this or not, whether we can feel it or not, pain cracks the heart and the soul is desperate; the mind turns on itself in a savage attack. I contend that many of our mental illnesses – depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety disorders and others – have their origin in these wounds, these tears, these fissures.
There is always hope, however, and it is possible to begin to weave together some cells and heal these terrible wounds. It takes a long time and a great deal of determined, consistent work, but it can be done. The point of being human is that we teach ourselves to solve the problems we create for ourselves. We have always been able to do this and I refuse to believe that we have lost this ability. Martin Luther King Jr. said, I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
The first task seems to be to understand the wounds that subtle and not-so-subtle dishonesty inflicts on us. To accept this cause and effect. There are many paths to healing, but nothing happens without this first step. It is a very frightening first step because it begins to shake the ground we stand on and then we feel as if we are losing our minds. But in fact, with this rumbling tremble under our feet as we open the first window to the possibility of real honestly in small and big things, we are just starting to regain our sanity.