I am old enough to realize that every single new day, in fact every single moment of existential time, brings with it something new. New challenges abound while carefully balanced by new things for which to be grateful. Being-in-existential-time, experiencing first hand the lived-experience, is something to be savored, enjoyed and embraced. This all works when one looks outside of oneself, finds ways to serve, to engage with others in a face-to-face encounter. It does not work when, in the depths of emotional or physical pain one turns to the interiority of the self because all there seems to be is pain or loss that triggers the desire to turn inward. When in pain it is difficult to think of anything else. When I had my left knee replaced six months ago the pain was so severe that I wanted no part of any other human being including my closest family. I saw absolutely no hope for relief. Drugs like toradol provided some immediate relief but that relief lasted but a short period of time. Then, about 3 months post knee surgery, the pain simply disappeared; presto, it was gone. The prostate surgery four months post knee surgery brought a different kind of pain, one that settled into my upper torso, especially around the shoulders and chest. This came from the settling of the CO2 pumped into my guts during surgery. While it was happening I was beside myself but then it left me only it was two days not three months.
The point of this is simply that there is no pain so great as not to resolve itself over time. I am in the middle of such a resolution as I write this. The incontinence suffered as a side effect of the radical prostatectomy I had is beginning to diminish, so much so that I have changed from Depends for Men to Depends Pads for Men during the day. It feels so good to wear cotton underwear and not the rubber pants that are part of the Depends for Men. I feel like I can breathe once again, that the underwear doesn’t stick to my buttocks, feel cold, chafe or bind. The thing that prompted the change was the simple fact that I was using fewer Depends three weeks after the catheter was removed. Leakage is slowing, not stopped. But the simple fact is that things are improving, getting better day by day.
This is, of course, an important lesson to remember. No matter how difficult something may seem at the moment, there is always a bright side to the picture. That old saying, this too shall pass, is quite true so long as one is willing to do the work to extract oneself from the interior of the self. It all comes back to the idea embedded in Levinas’s fundamental ethical obligation, to be of service for the benefit of others, to think of others before you think of yourself, to be ready to answer the call of the other without reservation or expectation of reciprocation. It is this basic idea of getting outside of the self in order to be present in existential time, in the material world, that makes all the difference in living in the world or contained as a hermit within the self.
Being of service to others is a decision made without reservation. It is a decision that rips a tear in the fabric of interiority allowing the self to escape itself in order to live in the world. This tear in the fabric of one’s internal self, once made, becomes the guiding model for one’s lived-experience. This is not to say that the tear cannot be overlooked, especially in the time of great pain, physical or emotional, but once there it becomes the window that allows light to render the darkness moot. The tear in the fabric of interiority is permanent, it cannot be repaired. It remains open even in the darkest of moments, in the times of greatest difficulty. It provides a way back to the material world and the ability to be of service for others.