Dave Sim's blogandmail #377 (September 23rd, 2007)
Sunday September 23 -
A previous correspondent who had become hesitant about writing to me (because he wasn't crazy about having his letters appear here) will not be identified by name. Went to the post office this morning (4 September) thinking, "I'll have to go bobbing for faith letters when I get home: the first Blog & Mail is a Sunday Edition." And, as it turns out, his letter was just waiting for me.
(He's changed his name a bit again. I don't know what that syndrome is all about, but there are people in the world who are very "name sensitive" so I try to accommodate that even though my own awareness is that names have become pretty much non-issues, at least on the ostensibly human level of reality. The ___ level might be another thing entirely. There have been women who have insisted on calling me "David" and every once in a while someone mentions that it should be "David Sim" on my books. As soon as I had a say in the matter, I became Dave. I can see the argument that an author should be named David, but I tend to think that if you write funnybooks and the Blog & Mail, Dave will do)
Anyway, he responded to my assertion about the structure of a hospital and how it seems completely incompatible with healing. I had written "Being trained to just lie there as the object of medical expert attentions takes your perceptions of yourself and your situation in exactly the wrong direction. `This has nothing to do with me. It's all up to the doctors.'" To which he replies:
"There is a big difference, however, between the doctors working in the Purgatory-like, socialist medical environment of Canada and, say, the personal, private medical staff of Tom Cruise. I would be willing to bet that Tom has a very direct rapport with his doctors, and that there are checks and balances in place. I would also be willing to bet that the kind of setting Tom is ushered into in a case of emergency is far different from the sterile catacombs of your average public hospital. The average hospital is the grand extension of the sentiment `this has nothing to do with me' – a sentiment that is, in fact, one of the core tenets of the DOG (Denial of God): `It Has Nothing To Do With Me.' Well, if you're Tom Cruise, chances are you think, `It Has Everything To Do With Me', and you've managed to put yourself into a position where you have enough power to surround yourself with the highest quality of persons in all `Tom Cruise-applicable' fields. Does this blessing of a life indicate that he humbles himself in prayer? I would guess that, on some level, he does. On some level he is a spiritual human being whose primary concern is being the very best he possibly can be day in and day out, and this kind of drive necessarily yields an eventual awareness of self, which in turn yields an awareness of God, necessarily."
Well, in these sorts of areas – which really come down to a question, in this case, of: is belief in and extreme prominence within Scientology and/or indescribable wealth and/or planet-spanning fame something that tends to incline the soul in a positive or negative direction? (best two out of three, anyone?) or "How is Tom Cruise doing, soul-wise, anyway?" – I tend to fall back on the Koran's injunction: You to your religion, and me to mine. I don't think we do ourselves any good by judging the beliefs of others. Sharing our beliefs is okay. I can happily listen to a Jehovah's Witness all day as long as I get my turn. It's always interesting to listen to an impassioned and earnest defence of a belief in Jesus' divinity. Everyone who believes in Jesus being God, I've found, has a different way of expressing it. It really is a litmus test of tolerance if they can make it through my explanation of what I see as the purpose behind the two Jesus, the Synoptic Jesus and the Johannine Jesus. I have to say that I have frankly been surprised that most do (as opposed to my expectation that most would try to brand my flesh with a crucifix or melt me with holy water).
I don't think an awareness of self necessarily yields an awareness of God. I suppose it depends on whether you mean an awareness of "ostensible self" or an awareness of "actual self". We all have a number of "selfs": family self, business self, faith self, etc. Being famous, being wealthy, being a movie star, being internationally recognizable would, for Tom Cruise, definitely qualify as self. But, presumably, none of those things are his soul, all of those things get left behind, so they are "ostensible" self. With some "actual self" mixed in. Lighting into psychiatry and psycho-active medication in a televised interview, I would suggest was "actual self" since it verged on career suicide but was a genuine attempt to communicate, soul to soul, with an audience that was probably only interested in his ostensible self. There was no way that lighting into psychiatry and the use of psycho-active medications was going to boost his price per picture, get him any positive coverage in the media or the inside track on a script he was interested in. Just the opposite in each case. But it's obviously the right thing to do. This is what I believe in, these interviews are completely pointless most of the time, let's make this one count for something.
I would tend to see Top Gun medical teams as a kind of temptation for the exact reasons that you cite. A lot of what keeps me out of hospitals in Canada is that I really can't think of anything as self-evidently wrong-headed as going in and having Vladimir Lenin poking and prodding around my vital organs. What happens to that disinclination when you replace Vladimir Lenin with a world-class surgeon who used to head up the cardiac wing at Johns Hopkins? Oh, hey, this guy is good. But is he? If the problem is demonic possession it doesn't matter if it's Vladimir Lenin, the guy from Johns Hopkins or Fred Flintstone. Cutting you open and taking something out isn't going to fix what ails you, but the temptation to believe it will goes up exponentially in a world-class medical context that's the best money can buy.
"I once wondered if I would have the stones to leave society completely were I to become fatally ill. Just head off and live in the wild until I either healed or died. I used to think that arriving at such a decision and taking the action to manifest it would require an unbelievable amount of courage whether healthy or ill. Well, as it turns out, I fell deathly ill a little under two years ago (just prior to becoming a Sikh). On the first day of sickness, I noticed some yellowing on my left arm about four inches down from the elbow, surrounding a large, grotesque lump under the skin. My thought was that it might have been a spider bite, but there didn't appear to be any puncture of the skin, not even the tiniest hint of a bite mark. Over the next several days, it got progressively worse in appearance, and I grew more ill. I reached a point, about three weeks into the ordeal, where I became sure I was dying. I considered my idea to head into the wilderness. In the end I just didn't have the energy. It never occurred to me to consider that, once sick, it wouldn't be a matter of courage, it would be a matter of energy. I was too sick to move, so I chose to remain in bed and pray. Not out of fear of death, but out of the fact that it just seemed like a good use of my time while immobilized. So I prayed for a solid week, all of my waking hours. Then, almost exactly a month after it began, I woke up one morning as strong as an ox, and the thing in my arm was gone. It had been there when I fell asleep, and was gone when I awoke. There had not been a slow fading of the yellowing skin and the lump, but a sudden departure. I stared at my arm in disbelief, rubbing the spot where the action had been, scrutinizing my skin for any sign of the thing, any hint of it having existed, but there was nothing there. From my perspective it seemed like a miracle. Point of the story: there is a part of me – maybe a big part – that wonders if I'd be here to write this had I checked myself into the local public hospital."
That's very similar to what happened to me in January. It seems to me to be a genuine test of faith. I had to keep stepping back and getting an overview. Yes, I feel like absolute crap, in fact I feel like I'm dying, yes, I have this inexplicable growth that wasn't here yesterday – but what is ACTUALLY going on? The atheistic voice in my head (I think we all have it) is saying, No, this looks serious. You should go to the hospital. But how serious was it? I mean I was sick, but I wasn't in pain, or at least not any kind of pain that I couldn't take. But what if I die? What if it IS that serious? That was the funny part. By that point in my life it was as if I was asking myself: But what if I get out of detention? What if, instead of having to stay here another fifty years, what if I get to leave tomorrow?
Okay, is this a TRICK question?
But I do think it points in the direction of the temptation posed by world-class health care. Forget about the local public hospital. If you were Tom Cruise and you woke up with a growth like that and you knew that you had umpty-ump millions in the bank and all you had to do was to hit a button on your speed-dial and Ben Casey from Johns Hopkins will be there in five minutes…?
No, as you say, the best use of your time in that instance is prayer. It's just too screwy. This wasn't here yesterday, so I'm inclined to believe that it isn't actually here at all. That is, it's only here in an ostensibly physical sense. And then, as you say, it's gone.
Next week: More with Our Mystery Guest
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