“[Duke] Ellington never let you forget that music was his profession. On the other hand, the popular vision of Coltrane is that he seemed to ask you, repeatedly, to alter your life.”
Ben Ratliff

Coltrane: The Story of a Sound

My Periodontitis … and Trump!?

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For years my Israeli dentist has treated me for Periodontitis – a gum disease. The disease, as he explained to me is not curable, only manageable and could be hereditary (my mother also has it). The treatment involved a yearly cleaning called “deep-scale” which means getting in and cleaning the spaces between the gums and the teeth. Because my gums are sensitive it can only be done with local anesthesia. My Israeli dentist is a friend and a deeply caring person and yet the treatment is not a pleasant one.

After moving to Romania I kept up the treatment during my almost-yearly visits to Israel because I did not find a Romanian dentist to carry on the treatment. Until last year, through Iulia, I finally did meet one. I explained the situation to him and he agreed that periodontitis is indeed not curable, only manageable. However he did not agree that I have it. In fact, he said that my gums were perfectly healthy.

I am guessing that many people have experienced differing opinions when consulting with different doctors. But such complete contradiction? Now add to that my personal experience. For years, both in Israel and Romania, I felt that the sensitivity of my gums was related to my general sense of well-being. When I wasn’t feeling well (emotionally, energetically, physically) my gums tended to bleed more. When I was feeling better my gums bled lss (or did not bleed at all). In my recent years in Romania (which implies drastic changes in lifestyle) my gums stopped bleeding.

Lets make things more interesting … I just came back from a short (one week) visit to Israel. It was a purposeful visit (around Yoga studies) and while there I was in a relatively safe and predictable bubble. Yet it was a difficult visit for me. There is a lot of disturbance in the air … a volatile energy … a lot of anger, frustration, difficulty, negativity. I had numerous head-aches. I felt drained and tired a lot of the time. My stomach was bloated …. and … my gums started bleeding again. I didn’t visit my Israeli dentist this time … but if I did would he have again diagnosed me with Periodontitis?

What does this say about our modalities of thinking? What does it say about empirical science (both dentists are trained in similar empirical sciences)? What does it say about our understanding of disease and illness AND treatment and healing? What does it say about our ability to diagnose and predict? What does it say about our understanding of contexts and conditions?? What does it say about thought as an act of creation – did I have an “incurable disease” because my dentist believed I did and convinced me of it?

What do we really know? … and most importantly (and brings us to Trump) … what don’t we know? …. unknowns …

“The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do. There are always some pieces like platypi that don’t fit … we can ignore [them] … give them silly explanations … or we can take the whole puzzle apart and try other ways of assembling it that will include more of them”

Robert Pirsig – Lila: An Inquiry into Values

Most of what I’ve seen about trump is reactionary and prophetic. Whether from conservative or progressive thinking … on almost any subject … people seem to be craving a way to predict what is going to happen. In that approach is a subtle trap … people are assuming that we are acting primarily in a mechanistic world of knowns … that if we identify and measure all the parameters and put them into some kind of black box it will yield a result (I’m just realizing how this seems to coincide with the rise of AI). This thinking, by definition, does not take into consideration unknowns.

I believe that unknowns are present almost all the time and that they have a bigger role in the unfolding of our world then we give them credit for (primarily because our mental models are not trained to handle unknowns). But now is a special time … knows are declining and unknowns are rising. And yet we forget to take them into consideration (how to approach this is beyond the scope of this post … but I would point in the direction of spiritual practices and creative arts in which unknowns are a key ingredient).

My life in recent years has gifted me a fair share of unknowns, so I have become slightly more accustomed to them. But these days I find myself almost seeking unknowns. When I look at the world through what is known the world looks sad and grim. But when I remember that there are so many unknowns in the air … then the world looks more … unknown … and less grim.

I thought that I was living in a world where Periodontitis can’t be cured and Trump could not become president. “Unknown” doesn’t mean we live in a world where Periodontitis can be cured and Trump can be … undone.

Unknown means that we don’t really know what Periodontitis is nor what a world with a president Trump looks like. It means there are possibilities we can’t imagine yet … let alone comprehend. This makes me feel lighter, softer and more spacious.

P.S.

I would like to say something about conditions. We of a western mentality tend to believe we can assert an extensive degree of control over the world. I, in reflecting on my life experiences of recent years, have come to believe that while I may be able to assert some control, I have much less of it then I would have liked to believe. I have wrestled with and come around to embracing the idea that the conditions in which I am immersed have much more effect on me than do my own actions. The upside of that is that I focus most of my energy and actions on changing my living conditions! I believe that the changed conditions of both being away from Israel (and all that that implies) and being here in Romanian ( and *oh my god* everything that that implies) was key to changes that, amongst other things, manifested as heathy gums.

I believe time will tell a similar story about Trump. I believe that president Trump is much less significant then the conditions of the society he is presiding over. Individual healthy, economy, ecology, social fabric, international relations, militarization … all these and more are issues that matter much more.

 

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