Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Oh, how much I hate to be weak. As I lay curled up yesterday, waiting for the pain to pass, I felt reduced to the headache at times, as though the stabbing pain had completely taken me over. But my migraines always come in waves, and when it ebbed, I could think a little. And part of what I thought about was feeling sorry for myself - here it was a beautiful day, and the sunlight hurt, the normal sounds of my apartment hurt, thinking too much hurt, even curling up under the quilt hurt. Poor, poor, pitiful me. Which, of course, only made the whole thing worse.

And I thought of a Russian novel that I enjoyed a great deal, The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, a satiric masterpiece in which the Devil comes to Stalinist Moscow and wreaks serious havoc there in the course of hosting a ball at which Margarita is to be the hostess. She is mostly interested in getting a literary master out of the insane asylum he's been put in after writing a novel about Jesus. In the novel, Pontius Pilate is portrayed as having terrible migraines, which make the glaring whiteness of Jerusalem pure torture, thus setting the scene for him to reject the immediate connection he feels with Jesus, and passively allow the crucifixion.*

And I wonder: am I allowing my illness to get in the way of the person I could be? And I thought about another migraineur: Hildegarde von Bingen. Abbess, visionary, composer, healer. Now, admittedly, even Hildegarde has gotten her visions downgraded to visual chimera associated with migraine in this terribly literal age, and yet, she saw her migraine as a gift from God, the ability to see "angels of light", even if that gift left blindness where the angels had been, and a shaky disorientation in its wake.

Even I admit that the "visual disturbances" can make the whole world look really beautiful, except that I know what's coming. Right before the migraine hits, I see everything outlined in light, each blade of grass crisp and bright, even the shadows have a sparkling depth to them. And even as I see the beauty of it, I fear what's to come: sickness, pain, clumsiness, weakness, even blindness sometimes. And I know that all my senses will be extremely acute - I will hear the quietest sounds, see even in dim light - it's only in sunlight that I'll be blind - feel texture so acutely that even my soft quilt is too rough, even taste and smell become so acute that I can barely eat - toast, some frozen things, "light" broths, water with the barest tint of juice in it.

What a gift, to see the whole world infused in light, and yet... Ouch.

* As a side note: while this portrayal of Pilate really works in Bulgakov's novel, the historical Pilate was not a nice person in the slightest. He was an occupying military governor, helping to prop up a puppet state, and was the sort of person that that usually entails.


Blogger Lorcan said...

Oh dear fFriend:

I can only hold thee in the light and pray with thee to forebare the pain and wisdom to the doctors to find a cure for migraine.

Thy foot note made me smile, I am rather literal about how biblical tales and literature have cleaned up the immage of Pilate, who was, at thee says... a real beast!

Feel better soon... and enjoy the summer.
Thine in the light

6/14/2006 1:30 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Thank you. I'm beginning to feel better, and did make it to work today, though I wore sunglasses against the light from my monitor, and had to remind myself that the person one cube over wasn't intending to make the huge ruckus I heard when she moved some files.

I, too, tend to be pretty literal about the history of the era v. the ways it is often portrayed. Roman military governors were rarely known for their wishy-washy empathy with the folks to be governed, and Pilate was not even one of the better ones.

6/14/2006 2:16 PM  
Blogger Lorcan said...

yes apparently he was recalled for being a scutherer, as we say in Ireland, causing trouble to see what comes to the surface...

Glad thee is up and about... playing a concert tonight with Kelly, busking all day to get in the hum...


6/15/2006 5:44 AM  
Blogger Little Black Car said...

Oh, man--good luck with the migraine. My sister-in-law and one of my best friends are both migraine-prone and it really knocks them out. Hope you feel better soon.

6/15/2006 11:47 AM  

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