As the day of surgery comes ever closer I find myself reflecting on a few ideas that make this whole experience with cancer remarkably peaceful. Sure there is some stress; it would hardly be normal to approach a major operation with some potentially life changing side effects without some anxiety but that is not the peace I am referring to. I suppose the best way to describe this experience is a strangely interesting connection to the alterity of the absolutely infinite other awaiting me.
In part, this experience is guided by the unquestioned fact that there can be no substitute for me in this experience. The surgery, facing cancer, an eerie exposure to the infinite is mine and mine alone. While I have others who love and care for me, my experience is singular and unconditional. This very moment, as I write this, the absolute interiority of this journey of mine is unconditionally. I am presented with a continuum of choices ranging from denial to acceptance. To steal a line from “Flight,” the new Denzel Washington film, with a slight adaptation, “I have used up my allotment of denial.” Acceptance, on the other hand, means thinking in terms of the worst possible outcome, accepting that outcome, and working to achieve a better one. The worst possible outcome, in this particular case, is, quite simply, death. I must accept that possibility but I also must work to achieve a better outcome.
I am also learning that if I approach this very moment as if it is a new opportunity for a re-beginning, that this very moment allows me to open a door to a completely new beginning, I am, in fact, acting in concert with the exteriority of the absolute other. On this measure, I find myself seeking a mirror of that absolute other in the face of the other, in my basic human relationships. I measure that connection by my actions and how those actions are embracing of the exteriority of the other; by how I respond to difference. Do I make myself available through my desire to create proximate space or do I shirk from that ethical obligation because I am wrapped up in myself.
Finally, I can measure just how my own experience brings out all of those things for which I am grateful. Waking up, brushing my teeth, eating meals, playing with my dogs, talking with my wife, having breakfast with my family these are the things I am grateful for. I find the little things to be more important than politics, religion or anything else that is outside of my control. Not that I can control the little things however I do have some choices with those things for which I make a decision or two. All of those little things add up to a lived-experience that is uniquely my own, that, while parts are shared with others, much is more private than public. I believe that making some of that private experience public is at the core of understanding the mirror of the infinite that is contained in the face of the other. I’ll have to come back to this later because I am not sure how to work it out quite yet. I think of this as a note to myself to return when I can.
In the final analysis, what I have to lose is the existential lived-experience. On the other hand, I have the absolute potential to gain entrance to the absolute infinity that only I can enter. I don’t know if that is a fair trade but I do know that it is inevitable. I do what I can to postpone the inevitable.