I chose to go flat. But I almost wasn’t allowed to. This is largely due to the unacknowledged psychological tension that underlies deeply gendered illnesses: that it is possible to have one’s gender or sex taken away by disease or disability; literally eaten by cancer and its aftermath. The sick person is then framed as one who has been robbed of the “natural” trappings of motherhood, wife-dom, and feminine sexuality. The aesthetics of breast cancer therefore remained fixated on a loss of idealized womanhood.
Having meaningful conversations about systemic racism and social immobility can connect people as much as the act of absorbing someone else’s microcosm of grief and relating to it. Ideally, I think, the conversations should encompass both the macro issues and the micro everyday scenes: acknowledging the social values that might hinder social change and communicating the process of witnessing everyday pain that reminds us of our shared humanity.
Religion is no "opiate of the masses." Rich and poor, educated and ignorant alike flock to the call of certainty in these uncertain times. Rather than action based on the fear of an angry deity’s surveillance and judgement, this is an escape from the unease within. Certainty is a kind of social power. It indicates authority. Certainty reinforces identity through the use of prescribed language. Certainty is a foundational part of action. Today’s pandemic religion is about something you can be sure of. It’s about a bid for authority seen as stolen by science, by government, by secularism, and by technology. In the same way that 'thoughts and prayers' are more of a dismissive platitude than an actual step towards healing, it’s “Amen” at a distance without much in the way of getting directly in the trenches to rescue the drowning.
While last year I was busy being quite the adventurous backpacker, this year my biggest achievement has been to walk beyond the well-worn path between my bedroom and kitchen. It might have been the intensity of the lockdown slowly rotting away my brain, but I couldn’t help but start to draw some parallels between my time locked up in my bedroom in Melbourne, and my practice of Vipassana in Thailand.