27 February 2007

Getting busy, one step at a time

It's not just a literary crush or something along those lines. It's one of the reasons I like the music I like: It's accessible to me. I get it, I know it, I carry those rhythms in my bones every day. That's how I feel after reading a little of the writing of Orhan Pamuk, who as the Nobel Literature Prize winner, "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures," according to people who would know. He also seems quite down-to-earth in his writing. He is someone like me, in other words, someone I could see chatting with at a party.

So after reading that, I wrote myself a little note on a Post-it: "If you're ever going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, you'd better get busy." I know I may not ever be recognized for my prowess in literature specifically but perhaps will accomplish something else entirely, but it's still true.

For example, one profound idea I am turning over in my mind lately is that there is some kind of revolution in thought in store for us. I saw a film about space that made me ask myself what is the next frontier that has the capacity to unite all of humankind. I believe it will be something internal, interior, something that takes us deeper into a collective consciousness than we have ever understood we could go, just as mapping the world and going to the moon have done for our vision of our selves in the world.

In the meantime, there are so many stories to tell in this big wide world. Yesterday I was coming out of a store and heard a man crying for help. I ran for the sound, toward what looked like an older guy in the process of being run over by his own car. I pushed the car as hard as I could and rolled it back up the slope and off of him -- it had missed crushing his foot and leg by millimeters, as far as I could tell. Long story short, he was okay, more or less, but I stuck around for a while and talked with him, in part because he was older, in part because he was trying to minimize how close he just came to losing his leg or worse. I thought he could go into shock.

So as I listened, he told me about himself. About his job in the Merchant Marines as a radio operator from 1943-1948. About being a professor of English literature. About living up on the mountain with an incapacitated wife and doing their errands -- and not wanting to be sent to a nursing home. About not caring for a wound on his leg and having to visit a doctor twice a week. He was on his way to a doctor's appointment, "At 2:45," he assured me with a little moue and a direct gaze like a child's, perhaps checking my eyes to see if I really believed him). It was ten before two and I did have more to do, so we went on our respective ways. But I did leave a slip of paper with my name and address on it. And I took his license plate number, just in case.

I'm going to try to get him a little help, because I see someone who might be falling through the cracks and would like to see what I can do. The man is terrified of losing his autonomy, and in retrospect it all adds up: his reluctance to call anyone to come to his aid, or to call 911. My guess is he thinks his days of living independently are all but over and he's doing whatever he can to postpone that inevitability. That must be frightening.

I looked him up on Google, however, figuring a retired Merchant Marine and English professor would be easy to identify, with a few specific dates and places. But no: his personal data is clearly pre-Google information. (Will we one day sort eras into B.G. (Before Google) and A.G.?) So I have a call placed to someone in the English Department to help me come up with a name for the guy (or find out whether he was feeding me something else). And when I called, the woman on the phone at the English department said, "So you think he needs what, a welfare check?" She just called back with his name and phone number, so I can perhaps alert Social Services to send someone to look in on him. As my doctor friend told me, there are much better drugs and therapies available now to help him keep his mind sharp and live autonomously longer, if his doctor is given the opportunity to discover that he needs them.

My friend the doctor then suggested that I try to come to a doctor's appointment to advocate that they do a thorough mental and physical workup, rather than just caring for his leg injury. I have mixed feelings about trying to involve myself further because of some of the things he said about himself, so I am sitting with that idea for a while.

Time to go for now. If anything new develops in this thread, I'll keep you posted.

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