...time is not natural: it is a social product. A year might be the duration that has elapsed as the Earth circles the sun, but our planet’s orbital position tends to have little bearing on how I conduct myself as a person. However, a New Year’s Eve party? There you’ll see me reflecting, resolving, disclosing, mourning, celebrating, making amends, taking chances, jumping into new beginnings, and, above all, falling back into the same old patterns. Time is made knowable through the procession of meaningful events that we use to punctuate its abstract passage.
I am hospitalized while I am typing this, waiting to be seen for cervical vertebral disease, which is causing a daily numbing sensation in both hands. The wait time in the hospital provides me with a perfect chance to do autoethnography—to observe how I, as a patient, experience the medical system. I find that waiting is one of the main themes in my hospitalizing experience. The medical system dehumanizes me by means of turning me into a bed number and I have to take actions to be human again while waiting in the system.
Himalayan travelogues are full of stories. For the most part, those stories fall into a specific genre, one that I tend to refer to as “my magical adventure in an exotic land.” Mustang, especially, has this reputation. In fact, multiple coffee table books easily available from booksellers everywhere pay homage to the “Lost Kingdom of Tibet,” the “Lost World of Lo,” and the “real Shangri-La.” Unfortunately, these books and pamphlets on high altitude travel are equally full of popular orientalist tropes of “pure” cultures and “innocent” people who somehow exist “out of time” despite being just as familiar with and a part of the “modern” world as anyone else is. But the impetus to see Mustang (and the Himalayas generally) as “magical” place filled with “spiritual” people is a hard one to resist. Most especially because the illusion is not just conjured up by Euro-American travel agencies or National Geographic specials but by Nepalis and Tibetans themselves, many of whom rely on the trekking and tourism industry for their livelihoods in a land politically marginalized between China, Kathmandu, and India.
Feeling 'well' can mean many different things. Generally, though, intentions still count, and even more powerful are the social connections we feel along the way. “That will be next year’s project”, say many of us. “By then, I’ll be ready for it”, we might add. These kinds of statements also featured in several conversations with my … Continue reading This New Year, Think About Your Social Health Too