Tuesday, August 12, 2014

pain and orientation

I had a bicycle accident yesterday. As a result, I have a bad bruise on my left shoulder, another on my left thumb/heel of hand, and a minor scrape on my knee. I’m also in day three of a relatively minor attack of Ménière’s syndrome.

The scrapes and bruises have different feelings of pain, but none of them is quite like the Ménière’s. The scrapes are most superficial and least constitutive of a sense-perceptual world for me. They are found in a location on the surface of my body, and in that way, phenomenologically, are objective, corporal appearances. The bruises, especially the deep one in my shoulder, appear ambiguously. I can objectify them as such, feel them, delectate in the pain that is “in” “my” shoulder as I might enjoy the sensuous delights of a glass of good whisky. On the other hand, the shoulder moves differently and my motions are changed, not through an objective or mechanical error, but as motions-I-can-make. My range of motility, of intention to move, is limited, and in this way the shoulder bruise appears constitutive of a world for movement, hence subjective.

The Ménière’s symptoms are entirely different. What is objectified as Ménière’s syndrome is a loss or distortion of hearing, loss of balance, vertigo, and feeling of pressure around the ear. From a third-person perspective, that’s somewhat accurate as an account of the symptoms. Subjectively, what’s happening is existentially significant. I realized I was an aurally-oriented more than a visually-oriented person, compared to many people, but that’s not even half of it. I haven’t “lost hearing” or “lost balance.” I have lost a great deal of my sense of spatiality. My orientation to spatiality is not just a matter of (visual) appearance of things having normal up-down fixity (of being “true” or “plumb”). The “pressure in my head” is a loss of my sensitivity to waves of air of all kinds. I have lost the buoyancy of my orientated place in the world. Instead of bouncing along on waves of sound, I’m sunk like a rock under them.

Not enough is said in phenomenological circles about buoyancy as a dimension of flesh and orientation in our perceptual projection into the world. In fact, I don’t recall ever reading about it or hearing anyone talk about it, and I don’t think I would have realized how important buoyancy is to my orientation if it weren’t for Ménière’s.

I’m not thankful.

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