Monday, July 27, 2020

July 27 of the year of COVID: John Lewis, honor guards, the power of precision.

Today's US death total: 150,233. (Link)

I watched all of the memorial service for John Lewis today. I watched him be carried over the Edmund Pettus bridge on the weekend. I have been a white female Canadian retired physio feeling a bit like a voyeur, attending services for black men in the US whether murdered by police or dying of cancer as John Lewis did. 

I have been moved to tears.


Tears started falling out of my face when the honor guard moved his casket from the church to the wagon, the caisson they call it, that would carry him across the bridge strewn with rose petals, red rose petals, to symbolize the blood that was shed on that same bridge 55 years earlier, Bloody Sunday 1965, when fascist piggdoggs of the day cracked his skull open during a peaceful march for civil rights. 


The honor guard moved as one. Eight burly men. All dressed impecably. In military clothing. All of them wearing masks. Their steps taken very carefully. Very measured. Taking 4 steps to turn a 90 degree angle. Very precise. Listening to and obeying orders.  Standing at attention, very still, between each set of steps. 

As I watched this, I felt grief burn a hole through me. It was partly for John Lewis, it was partly from the pageantry itself, the respect it was all intended to convey. 

Weirdly, there was also grief for the life I have had to leave behind.  


I was reminded of the power there is in touch, a life spent touching people with a license to do so, therapeutically. Of having learned how to touch effectively. With precision. Obeying something that gave me the orders. Being very still before and after each small move. How touch, when done that way, conveys respect. How it may touch someone else's nervous system in such a way that they feel redeemed. Respected. Accepted into the world again. 

What is that something that gives the orders?
It can't be defined. It's interoceptive. It has no voice. It's a sensation coupled with some cognitive appreciation. It's the third space. It's the intersubjectivity between two nervous systems, communicating kinesthetically. 

For decades after I had learned to recognize it, it sounded like a loud voice to me, a drill sergeant barking out the steps of a very practiced drill.

I often compare good manual therapy to jazz and state emphatically that it's not classical music. I get that comparing manual therapy to a casket-carrying drill by military people seems a bit the opposite of jazz, however please bear with me:
Good jazz musicians are precise. They have already played classical music, most of them, and moved on.
They take pauses.
They pay rapt attention for hours,  listening to each other.
They listen for soundless space between notes. The silence. They hear beats that no one else can.
And they move together, perfectly.

No comments: