"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bill Got a Laptop

and sent this post. I don't know if he typed it, which would have been quite arduous, or dictated, which also would have been arduous, but it was a good read, and I've pasted in part of it here (I added the links):

A message from the other side of brain surgery

On July 17,2008, my neurosurgeon, Dr. Muizelaar, removed an aggressive meningioma tumor from my brain. The operation was successful and removed a mass the size of a mandarin orange, according to the Doctor! Now there will be a recovery period where I will have to relearn basic functions like sitting, standing, walking, and speaking in complete sentences. I feel great support from you all, through your thoughts, prayers, and postings on CarePages.

From the ragged ruins of my swollen brain, this passage from the poem “Ullyses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson beckons. It brings comfort as evidence of a memory at least partially intact and as a reminder of the brave work of my friends and colleagues who struggle every day to make this world just a little kinder.

Come my friends.
Tis not too late to seek a newer world!
…Though much has been taken,
Much abides.
And though we are not that strength
That in younger years moved earth and heaven,
That which we are, we are.
One equal temper of heroic heart,
Made weak by time and fate,
But strong in will.
To seek, to find, to seize,
And never to yield.

My Condition

Due to general right side paralysis linked to post operative swelling of the brain, my function is quite limited. I cannot stand, walk, or manipulate the wheelchair without assistance. I cannot speak in complete sentences, though I can conceive what I want to say. The most profound symptom I am faced with is fatigue. 20 minutes of any type of activity leaves me fully spent requiring sustained rest. This will improve as the swelling goes down.

I am in good spirits feeling loved and supported by all. It seems fortuitous that most of the irritation of the brain was in the left hemisphere, the general source of our individuality and ego. As a consequence, I spend a lot of time in that blissful region of the brain where all is “one”. I get weepy at times when I feel the connections with so many who share their own stories and support at this time. We really do have more in common with each other as a species, as a community and as friends than we have dared to admit. I like this side of the brain. It joins, as one, the spiritual presence of my friends and colleagues without regard to generations, decades, or specific relationships. It sustains non-specific bliss and support from all, and in combinations never before thought of....

It sounds like his experience is similar in some respects to that of the neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor who wrote a book about how her stroke & subsequent recovery lit up her right hemisphere in such a way as to change her whole view and approach to life.

Interestingly there is a passage from "Ulysses" that frequently pops into my thoughts as well, and has done so for years and years since high school so that it's like a kind of mantra:

"I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move."

I think especially the line "I am a part of all that I have met" is the one that has always resonated.


hmr said...


George and WP said...

Very pleased to hear he is recovering and we will continue to pray for the very best.

Bellabell said...

I am reading some great stuff about the new neurosciences. I probably understand one sentence in 20, but the ones I get are in the same vein, so to speak, as Bill writes. Stunning. And the man quotes "Ullyses," a poem which i have often read to students, but now cannot read aloud without tearing up. I think, along other of life's surprises, AGE nudges us over into the left hemisphere and gives us glimpses of greater glory and (one hopes) a watered-down ego. Blessings on you, Bill! Prayers continue.

Emily said...

"Old age hath yet [her] honor and [her] toil..."

It's wonderful how the meaning of a great work unwraps itself over time.