Narrative Medicine Book Club: April 1st, 2020

This idea of illness as equalizer (though technically in this quote they are talking about the plague of rats and not yet of humans) really resonates in today’s pages. There’s another moment in these pages where this comes up — when Tarrou is describing the two tram conductors talking about someone who has died: “‘Even so, he seemed like anyone else,'” says one, and the other answers “‘No, he had a weak chest.'” We see people doing this so much these days, too, trying to find the reason why one person succumbs where another doesn’t, as if there is a map to follow, a clear way to reliably separate the population into categories. What happens if we are are all “like everybody?”

I’m also very interested in the way the narrator is taking shape … he reliably refers to “our” town, but then never uses the first person, referring instead repeatedly to “the narrator” in the third person. Also interesting how the narrator is beginning to bring in other “sources,” while maintaining a main narrative voice that nonetheless seems to know things that he probably wouldn’t, unless the narrator is actually Rieux himself? (I’m sure many of you already know the answer here but please don’t reveal it yet!) 

FOR TOMORROW: Read the next 7 or so pages (actually tomorrow it’s more like 8!), up to “The main thing was to do one’s job well.” 

ALSO ANNOUNCING OUR FIRST ZOOM MEETING TIME! Sunday, April 5th, at 2pm Eastern via Narrative Medicine Zoom.

Live Virtual Group Session: 7pm EST March 31st 2020

It was wonderful to meet with last night’s group for our second live session, coming together from around the globe –from Brooklyn to San Francisco, Canada to Qatar. We were profoundly uplifted to see so many people share in this experience. The responses, spoken and written, were unforgettable.

The poem we read together was “Wait” by Galway Kinnell, posted below.  It helped us think about how very strange time has become under the conditions of pandemic, and about trust, and where it can be nurtured, “Distrust everything, if you have to./But trust the hours.”   Recognizing how weary many of us feel at this moment, the poem also opened the topic of fatigue, “You’re tired. But everyone’s tired./But no one is tired enough.”  And very powerful recollections were stirred by the imagery of “second-hand gloves,” “their memories are what give them the need for other hands.”

Our prompt was: “Write about a recent time when you trusted the hours.”  The writing produced and read aloud was rich with imagery and emotion, and our participants listened attentively and showed great appreciation and empathy for one another.  One particular piece drew our attention to the elements of time and hope in our processing of loss.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below, to keep the conversation going, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please join us for our next session: Wednesday April 1st at 7pm EST, with more times to be announced shortly.

As before, due to the wonderful turnout for these sessions, we encourage you to join as promptly as possible: After a ten minute grace period, we will be closing the Zoom session to preserve the integrity of the session for those joined. If you try to join past that time and are unable, we encourage you to join the next session! More times and opportunities will be announced soon.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

Copyright © 1980 by Galway Kinnell. From Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (Mariner Books, 1980).

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours.  Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands.  And the desolation
of lovers is the same: the enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Don’t go too early.
You’re tired.  But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.